“Don’t imagine that you can bully me.” - Charles Augustus Milverton

There is a legal battle afoot to allow the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to be recognized as part of the public domain, free from the constraint of the punitive Conan Doyle Estate, which has spent its time bullying authors into forking over royalties - royalties not based on the 10 stories still in copyright, but on the specious claim that the characters themselves are copyrighted.

We say it’s high time to #FreeSherlock and we hope that you’ll join us by liking, reblogging or otherwise sharing this article. Click through for the full story, complete with the press release from Leslie Klinger, who is leading the civil action.




“A civil action was filed today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate by Sherlock Holmes scholar Leslie S. Klinger. Klinger seeks to have the Court determine that the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson are no longer protected by federal copyright laws and that writers, filmmakers, and others are free to create new stories about Holmes, Watson, and others of their circle without paying license fees to the current owners of the remaining copyrights.”

- Free Sherlock

Babes Lyndsay & Curly chat with Holmesian extraordinaire and vigilante Les Klinger about freeing Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and a host of other characters from copyright.

Also mentioned: Shreffgate, Sherlock Holmes 3 (the movie), Sherlock Gnomes, and some pornography.

You can find all the information about Free Sherlock at

Weekly Sherlock Links Compendium (December 14 - December 31, 2013)

Here’s my final set of Sherlockian news items and happenings from 2013….

The summary judgment on Klinger vs. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. was announced, Les Klinger and an attorney for the ACD Estate both responded to the ruling, intellectual property expert and Sherlockian Betsy Rosenblatt explored what the Free Sherlock ruling means for fans, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere released a special edition podcast discussing all things #FreeSherlock, The Grand Game trading card project set-up a Kickstarter page, Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who, Dan Andriacco commemorates Blue Carbuncle Day, an issue of The Solar Pons Gazette appeared after a five year hiatus, Ross K Foad started an online collection of Sherlockian essays called the Diogenes Club Library, the British Library uploaded over one million public domain images to Flickr, Kristina of the Baker Street Babes makes the case for why you should love Sherlock, Alistair Duncan reported on a controversy sparked during a pre-screening of The Empty Hearse, what happens when 12 Sherlockians get together online to collaborate on a pastiche, MX Publishing put together a list of their 99 favorite Sherlock-related books and Season 3 of BBC Sherlock premiered in the UK and more in the final Weekly Sherlock Links Compendium of 2013 by Matt Laffey.  

Free Sherlock vs Sherlock Copyright Holders - known legally as “Leslie S. Klinger vs Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd.” - has come to a conclusion after 10 months of legal wrangling, acrimonious message board rants and a fair amount of amateur legal speculation one might expect from an intellectual property case lodged at the intersection of internet pop culture and a long and storied history of copyright controversy. Perhaps the most news worthy Sherlockian story to appear in the final days of 2013 (if you don’t count that ‘other’ piece of news about the air dates for a certain Holmes adaptation featuring a certain dreamy Sherlock), it’s a tangled skein best left to the experts to interpret and explain. From FreeSherlock: “The ruling is a victory for the plaintiff Leslie S. Klinger, who sought to establish that the Estate was wrong in claiming that no new stories could be written about Holmes or Watson without the Estate’s permission. “Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world,” Klinger said. “This ruling clearly establishes that. Whether it’s a re-imagining in modern dress (like the BBC’s Sherlock or CBS-TV’s Elementary), vigorous interpretations like the Warner Bros. fine Sherlock Holmes films, or new stories by countless authors inspired by the characters, people want to celebrate Holmes and Watson. Now they can do so without fear of suppression by Conan Doyle’s heirs.”” You can read a PDF of the entire “Order on the Motion for Summary Judgmenthere which may sound kind of boring, but out of all the material that’s available online regarding Klinger vs Estate, this will give you the best sense of 1) what the actual dispute is about and what it is not about, 2) what Klinger and ACD Estate agree on, 3) what Klinger and Estate do not agree on, 4) why Klinger thinks 'elements’ from post-1923 stories are not protected, 5) why the judge thinks Klinger is wrong on #4 because what Klinger calls "elements” are in fact protected as characters, plots, etc. and 6) what some of the implications are for authors and publishers. 

[Plaintiff Les Klinger in his LA law office surrounded by the spoils of a life dedicated to the Great Detective. When not annotating things or attempting to thwart copyright laws Klinger is an attorney in California and I sometimes wonder if new clients of his, encountering an office packed with Sherlockiana, are instilled with extreme confidence (ie. Sherlock Holmes was like a giant brain so my attorney must be a giant brain!) or extreme concern (ie. when does this guy have time to work on lawyer stuff?).]

Counsel for the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. Benjamin Allison reacted and interpreted the ruling a bit differently than Klinger in “Ruling Continues to Protect Much of Sherlock Holmes’s Character; Conan Doyle Estate Considers Appeal” pointing out that “under the current ruling from the Chicago trial court, all development of the Holmes and Watson characters by Sir Arthur in ten post-1922 stories remain fully protected by copyright. These ten stories - set at a variety of earlier points in the two men’s fictional lives - contain significant elements of both characters, including Sherlock Holmes’s mellowing personality, the change in Holmes’s and Watson’s relationship from flatmates and collaborators to closest friends, and a host of other developments, skills, and elements of background. While plaintiff Leslie Klinger sought a ruling that some of these character traits were free for all to use, the Court rejected Mr. Klinger’s effort in this regard and held that all such characteristics of Holmes and Watson are protected.” Allison makes an interesting point that helps frame the scope of why any of this actually matters: “Nearly a third of the stories in Mr. Klinger’s first co-edited story collection, A Study in Sherlock, use protected post-1922 story elements. That book’s publisher, Random House, appropriately entered into a modest licensing arrangement with the Estate despite Mr. Klinger’s position against such a license. Mr. Klinger did not provide his second story collection to the Estate, but one of the writers for that new collection told the Estate he wished to use a protected character, Langdale Pike, from the post-1922 stories. The Chicago Court reiterated that the character is fully protected by copyright law.” If I was a rumor mongering blogger-type I might mention something like: rumor has it that the catalyst for the entire copyright hullabaloo was a casual mention of Langdale Pike…and the rest is legal history. 

[Peter Wyngarde as Langdale Pike in the Granada adaptation of “The Three Gables.”]

Betsy Rosenblatt posted an essay on the Baker Street Babes website exploring some of the real-world implications of the #FreeSherlock ruling in “What does the Free Sherlock ruling mean for fans?” I encourage anyone unclear about various aspects of this case and/or anyone interested in reading a fascinating enumeration of the more pragmatic ins and outs of the case. My personal favorite bit in Rosenblatt’s essay concerns a Canonical point the judge got wrong, which also illustrates a bit about the limitations of the ruling (in both directions): “Keen Sherlockian eyes will observe that the judge got one point factually wrong: Sherlock Holmes’ retirement was first described in ”His Last Bow“ (one of the public domain stories), not the 1926 ”Lion’s Mane“. What does that factual error mean for fans? Probably not much, since this factual finding won’t bind future courts. Based on the legal principle articulated in the case, Holmes’s retirement to the South Downs, on a small farm among his bees and books, including The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen, are in the public domain - but the details of his retirement setting, and (of course) the storyline of "The Lion’s Mane”, are still protected.“ If you’re still having difficulty explaining the finer points of Klinger vs ACD Estate to your friend who keeps on asking whether or not he can start writing a Fifty Shades of Grey-Sherlock parody, see the NY Times article ”Sherlock Holmes Is in the Public Domain, American Judge Rules“ (with accompanying Frederic Dorr Steele illustration) for further analysis.

[Sadly, your other friend’s slash fanfic featuring Sherlock and the jellyfish from LION cannot be published in the U.S.A. without paying a fee to the Conan Doyle Estate until 2022.]

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, on a related #FreeSherlock note, released a special podcast episode of IHOSE covering the Klinger vs ACD Estate ruling featuring interviews with the plaintiff himself Les Klinger as well as IP Law scholar and noted Sherlockian Betsy Rosenblatt (BSI, ASH): "We were once again joined by Les, who outlined the background of the case and discussed some of the legal aspects of copyright that have led us to this juncture. We try to keep the discussion as interesting as possible for the lay people out there, and Les even manages to bring in the 1902 coronation of Edward VII as part of the case law history….[and] Betsy touches on some additional points that will undoubtedly be of interest.” Instead of ending the show with a relevant Baker Street Journal 'Editor’s Gas-Lamp’ Scott and Burt read from the late Joseph Merriam’s musings on “the impact of the legal profession within the Sherlock Holmes stories, citing six separate examples of the law and lawyers within the Canon.” Originally presented at a Spring 1992 meeting of The Speckled Band of Boston, Merriam’s essay is available online as a handwritten document titled “Impact of the Law on the Sherlock Holmes Stories" and is a hoot to read. 

[A scene from The Coronation of Edward VII (1902), a short film by George Méliès and Charles Urban which reenacts the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Watch the short film in it’s entirety here. ]

The Grand Game, the fan-inspired Sherlockian trading card project first announced here in October, is close to completion but needs your assistance! "With your help we can move this project to the final stages. We have been able to develop and design the first set of the cards honoring the fans of Sherlock Holmes. It is our hope that it will be the first of many sets to come” Collectors interested in the project might consider donating at the $150 level for which they’ll receive a Hobby Box (10 packs of cards) of The Grand Game - Sherlock Holmes Trading Cards w/ one box redemption (a $200 value). There’s also an accompanying eight minute video narrated by the creator of the card project, second generation Sherlockian Brian Rogers, which explains the history and philosophy behind The Grand Game Trading Cards, a myriad of gorgeous artwork examples and details on how you can help. To learn more about the project itself, read through the Kickstarter page and check out The Grand Game on Facebook and follow their Twitter for updates and special offers. 

[Les Klinger’s trading card from The Grand Game, Series One.]

Sherlock Meets the Doctor (released December 11, 2013), the fan mashup video sensation released which brilliantly and seamlessly merged footage from BBC Sherlock and Doctor Who (Matt Smith), was all the rage this December garnering attention from sites as diverse as the Huffington Post to Yahoo TV to Tor as well as pretty much every Sherlock and Doctor Who blog in existence, winning almost unanimous support from both fandoms, as the Internet seemed to shout in unison “Best Fan Video Ever!”, an assessment that’s pretty close to the mark. If you’re interested in how the video was created as well as a look at the original shots used, see Wholock - VFX Breakdown

[Sherlock Holmes + Doctor Who = Look out all time and space!!]

Dan Andriacco celebrates that most Sherlockian-specific of holidays, Blue Carbuncle Day, better known as “the second day after Christmas”(BLUE). In “Saving Mr Baker” Andriacco muses “Do you ever wonder what happened between Mr. Henry Baker and his wife after he walked off the pages of "The Blue Carbuncle” with his replacement goose?“ I’ll see Andriacco’s question and raise him another one: Do you ever wonder what happened to the upper-attendant of the Hotel Cosmopolitan, hapless schlemiel Mr James Ryder, the de facto villain of the piece. Ryder is systematically tracked down by Holmes, lured to 221B and then cajoled into a confession, only to then throw himself upon Holmes’ mercy. Following one of the most pathetic scenes in the Canon (cf. Paget illustration below) Holmes, ostensibly moved by "the season of forgiveness,” pardons Ryder. Immediately following Ryder’s departure,   good old predictable Watson expresses his middle class outrage at Holmes (once again) taking the law into his own hands, only to be appeased by Holmes’ 'jailbird for life’ explanation - an explanation I’ve always found questionable in light of one, it’s rather loose logic and two, Holmes’ earlier stressing of "the season of forgiveness". In short, I’ve always thought this scene is one of the greatest counter examples to the argument that Holmes is nothing but “the most perfect reasoning and observing machine”.

[“Ryder threw himself down suddenly upon the rug and clutched at my companion’s knees. “For God’s sake, have mercy!” he shrieked. “Think of my father! of my mother! It would break their hearts. I never went wrong before! I never will again. I swear it. I’ll swear it on a Bible. Oh, don’t bring it into court! For Christ’s sake, don’t!”" (BLUE).]

The Solar Pons Gazette (December 2013, Vol 4.1 No 5), published by Bob Byrne, is the newsletter dedicated to American mystery author August Derleth’s detective Solar Pons, described as "the best substitute for Sherlock Holmes known” by the godfather of all things Sherlockian Vincent Starrett. The last issue of The Solar Pons Gazette was released over 5 years ago but as editor Bob Byrne explains “after a long break from the work of August Derleth, I’ve returned to the deerstalkered demesne of the Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street. I kick it off with my 'second’ introductory essay on Pons.” The 44 page December 2013 issue is packed with commentary on classic Pons adventures, a Solar Pons pastiche, excerpts from the notebooks of Pon’s sidekick (ie. his Watson) Dr Parker, an old essay by Chris Redmond (of fame) from The Pontine Dossier (1977, Vol. 2 No. 3) and a reprint of an essay that should be of interest to both Derleth and Lovecraft fans entitled “Solar Pons and the Cthulhu Mythos." To learn more about August Derleth, visit the August Derleth Society’s website at: If you’ve never stopped in at 7B Praed Street, your first adventure with Solar Pons and Dr Parker can feel eerily familiar, like returning to the neighborhood you grew up  - while you’ll have no problem finding your way around, the details and scale are 'off’ just enough, producing a sense of temporary vertigo that mostly clears allowing you to enjoy the trip as a novelty, but not quite as home. Regardless, it’s still a treat occasionally spending time in Derleth’s world which is so lovingly modeled after the more familiar environs of Baker Street. 

[Back from a five year hiatus, The Solar Pons Gazette is the official newsletter of (to be relaunched soon), both of which are maintained and edited by longtime Ponsian Mr Bob Byrne.]

Diogenes Club Library, a new concept/project from Ross K Foad of No Place Like Holmes, seeks to be "the reading room of the site and houses an easy to navigate place for the essays NPLH has published so far (including all of Howards Ostrom’s 'Silent Doyle’ essays mentioned previously on Always1895). Ross K is actively seeking scholars and enthusiasts alike who might be interested in seeing work of their own on a larger platform in submitting essays for consideration at moment.” Ross K’s project has all the makings of an excellent online Sherlockian resource that will benefit Holmes fans of all persuasions.

The British Library announcement that they've uploaded “one million public domain scans from 17th-19th century books to Flickr! They’re embarking on an ambitious programme to crowdsource novel uses and navigation tools for the huge corpus. Already, the manifest of image descriptions is available through Github.” I’ve ran a few preliminary searches and since most of the scans are from books that pre-date the publication of A Study in Scarlet there’s not much in the way of Sherlock Holmes or ACD material beyond The Strand and Sidney Paget illustrations from The Adventures and The Memoirs but I’m sure the corpus will provide plenty of excellent and useful material one might use for a variety of research projects. 

[Image taken from page 133 of Cook’s Handbook for London, just one of the million pictures available for free from the British Library corpus.]

5 Reasons Why You Should Love Sherlock video put together by Kristina of the Baker Street Babes celebrates the very imminent return of BBC SherlockLyndsay Faye and an assortment of other Babes assist Kristina in reviewing just why you should love the Great Detective: “From canonical references to otterlock, it has it all.”.

Doyleockian reports on events surrounding the pre-screening of The Empty Hearse on December 15, 2013 at the BFI in London - an event that will be remembered for time immemorial (or at least for another Internet cycle or two) for igniting a controversy based not on the audience’s reaction to the BBC Sherlock Season 3 premier, but for a series of comments made /questions asked by one of the Q & A hosts, Caitlan Moran. London Reviews covers the entire 'story’ but the gist of it seems to be that Moran, who was supposed to be moderating the panel by asking questions related to the episode just watched, asked a set of silly, rude and unrelated questions and then proceeded to read aloud an example of Sherlock fanfiction she found 'funny’ - without the permission of the author whose thoughts on Morangate can be read here - but turned out to be ultra explicit making the crowd and panel (Cumberbatch, Moffat, etc.) uncomfortable. As you might expect, Twitter and other Sherlock fandom frequented social media sites reacted immediately and throughout the next few days. A few days later Alistair Duncan followed up his original post with some comments about the 'Morangate’ fallout, and that’s about all there is worth reporting. Make of this what you will. In the grand scheme of Sherlockian things happening over the next month or two it’s just an insignificant Internet blip that is sure to be overshadowed and then forgotten. 

[Q & A panel at the BFI pre-screening of The Empty Hearse.]

Girl Meets Sherlock, a blog by Amy Thomas, posted “2013: Sherlockian Year in Review” featuring personal Sherlockian highlights including the publication of her second pastiche The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree on MX and her one year anniversary as a Baker Street Babe as well as general Sherlockian fun such as 221B Con and Save Undershaw with a last minute inclusion of The Adventure of the Crowd-Sourced Adventure (cf. next entry) which occurred in the last days of 2013.

The Adventure of the Crowd-Sourced Adventure, written via Facebook in a two-hour period on December 29, 2013, is a collaborative effort by the following group of Sherlockians: Susan Bailey, C. A. Brown, Lindsay Colwell, Eva Garcia, Elinor Hickey, Jennifer Ribble Jones, Jaime Mahoney, Trix Middlekauff, Chris Redmond, Amy Thomas, Ray Wilcockson and Vincent W. Wright. “The waning days of December 1895 brought with them one of the most remarkable and yet untold cases in Sherlock Holmes’s career, which began one cold, foggy evening as I was preparing to depart the consulting-room of my medical practice and was startled by an unexpected knock on the door….” You can read the entire text at

MX Publishing’s owner Steve Emecz’s collected his 99 favorite Sherlock-related books, which are all available on Amazon, and displayed the front covers via his Pinterest page. On a related note, Steve and his wife have spent their Xmas/holiday in Kenya researching a book on a project called 'Happy Life’: “an ambitious project in Kenya that has already saved and had adopted over 160 abandoned children from the slums of Nairobi. The Happy Life Story book will share the success of the program and be a great resource for prospective adoptive parents full of case studies and information on how the project has grown…And of course we’ll make sure that there will be plenty of Sherlock Holmes books for the older children….” Check out their Kickstarter page for details.

[My favorite 2013 MX Publishing release: The Lighter Side of Sherlock Holmes: The Sherlockian Artwork of Norman Schatell edited by Glenn Schatell.]

BBC Sherlock Series 3 (Spoiler-Free) Links: 

BBC, as every Sherlockian fan in the universe is now aware, announced at long last the air dates for the The Empty Hearse, the Season 3 premier of BBC Sherlock. Viewers in the UK get to find out just how Sherlock survived Holmes’ plunge off the roof of St Barts on January 1, 2014 at 8pm, but North American fans will have to wait until January 19, 2014 when the episode officially airs on BBC America. By the time you’re reading this, The Empty Hearse will have already aired in the UK - hence available online for those with the ability and moral laxness to download TV shows illegally - but I’ve held off including any information in this post about the episode so as not to ruin any surprises or reveal any spoilers for those waiting to watch on Sunday, January 19th (which happens to be the final day of BSI Weekend 2014 in NYC).


Many Happy Returns, for those of you living under a rock, is a seven minute Sherlock 'mini-episode’ released by BBC on Christmas day entitled Many Happy Returns featuring events from after the Series 2 finale The Reichenbach Fall leading up to those in The Empty Hearse. After two years of waiting, Team Moffat delivers up a small slice of Sherlock heaven replete with Season 3 teasers, hilarity and Canonical tidbits galore. 

[Where in the world is Sherlock Holmes?]

I’m about to write an essay, a sort of commentary, on the Mr. Holmes lawsuit, which I hope to publish somehow, somewhere. Often enough, I feel like many such essays online preach mainly to the choir, to people who want to be aware of such goings-on. But this lawsuit, I think, is an even bigger deal than Klinger vs. ACD Estate battle, simply because it’s probably much more public. It’s over a Hollywood film now, starring a world-renowned and much-beloved actor. This is big stuff, and I feel like the outside world, the non-Sherlockian world, probably doesn’t understand the depth of the situation.

I mean, please, do correct me if I’m wrong (preferably with some articles I can enjoy!), but that is the impression I’ve gotten.

So, coming up… a commentary. Not just on the lawsuit, but on the history of the fandom itself. People talk about Star Trek being the oldest fandom, but we Sherlockians know the truth (said she with tongue firmly in cheek). Our history goes back a full century-and-a-quarter, and we were probably the first fandom to bring our beloved character back after he’d died. (The original “Coulson lives,” yo.)

We have a rich and complex history, and it’s positively ludicrous that the Estate is still trying to hold us down—we just keep rising back up like the proverbial phoenix!
“Sherlock Holmes” Is Now Officially Off Copyright and Open for Business

What amazing Holmes fan fiction will you create?

Basically, only read this comment if you want your blood to boil—me, I’m sharing it to let off steam. (I also find it ironic that this man’s name is James Moran, and he opposes the propagation of Sherlock Holmes creativity. Hmmmm! ;) ) This guy is obviously an elitist (it becomes clear further down the comment. How people can be so malicious is beyond me, especially over a wonderful character who combated acts of malice all his life.

But… yeah. Evil comment. Decent enough article. *sigh*

And the third and final Sherlock Christmas card in my possession, this one alluding to (figuratively) “The Empty House” when Holmes uses a bust of himself to create the illusion he’s at home–but here the great detective is admiring John Doubleday’s bronze statue near Baker Street Station in London.

Artist: Douglas E. West

Publisher: Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Supreme Court Won't Hear #FreeSherlock Case

“the final discussion of those questions which lie between us” [FINA]

Put a fork in it; it’s done.

The U.S. Supreme Court today has ended the longstanding copyright dispute between Leslie S. Klinger and the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. by refusing to hear arguments, according to Reuters.

You’ll recall that the CDE wanted to extract a licensing fee of $5,000 from Mr. Klinger for use of the characters in the upcoming book In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. Klinger objected, arguing that he was not using any copyrighted material and that the characters themselves could not be copyrighted. The business entity that is the CDE argued that the characters were not complete until Conan Doyle completed the Canon (which would have made things like the 1916 William Gillette film a bit difficult to make).

The argument was heard by the U.S. District Court and the decision was reached for the plaintiff; the Conan Doyle Estate appealed and the case went to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also agreed with the plantiff.

Well, that wasn’t going to stand with the business entity that is the spawn of Sir Arthur’s two greedy son’s Denis and Adrenaline Adrian; the CDE immediately filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on July 11 following that ruling. The petition was denied on July 18.

And then, to show how vehemently they did agree with the plaintiff, the 7th Circuit Ordered the Conan Doyle Estate To Pay Legal Fees, Give Up “Extortion”.

Not knowing when they’ve been defeated (lawyers are trained to argue and more importantly, are trained to win), the legal team gave what we could only determine was extremely poor advice by taking their now 0-3 record to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Time and again, the CDE was shown the folly of its arguments, and like a willfully blind toddler caught up in a tantrum, it chose to push ahead and waste the resources of all parties involved.

And now, we can rest easy as the SCOTUS decision clearly puts the first 50 stories in the public domain.

We’ve covered the #FreeSherlock movement extensively here (click the link for all articles). From our interview with Les Klinger, BSI (“The Abbey Grange”) to the most scathing and delicious court order to pay up, we’ve been interested bystanders and reporters.

We’re proud of our fellow Irregular Les Klinger and extremely grateful for all that he has done for the Sherlockian community. For Sherlock Holmes belongs to us all. This was originally posted on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere.

When an unscrupulous business effectively holds a gun to an author’s head in order to extract a payment, what’s one to do?

In Leslie Klinger’s case, he took the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. to court. And this week, following a decision for the plaintiff, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded legal fees to the plaintiff and warned the estate away from extortion.

For those who have been following the #FreeSherlock saga (click for our previous coverage), you’ll know that the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard arguments in June regarding the appropriate copyright of the Sherlock Holmes stories.


The plaintiff, Leslie Klinger, BSI, had sued for declaratory judgment on the Sherlock Holmes stories, looking for the first 50 to be declared clearly in the public domain, while the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd., the business entity representing the financial interests of the relatives of Conan Doyle, indicated that Sherlock Holmes as a character was not fully formed until the last story had been written.

The 7th Circuit, under Judge Richard Posner, issued a judgement in June (well worth reading; also available here), less than a week following the oral arguments, indicating that the first 50 stories were indeed in the public domain in the United States, and that any character elements that an author might wish to use in new stories would require the permission of the CDE. But stories incorporating elements prior to those stories being written were fair game.

In that June decision, Posner pulled on examples ranging from Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor to the Star Wars saga to delineate the features of “flat” and “round” characters and the timing of their character development. Judge Posner said that “perpetual, or nearly perpetual copyright looms once "one realizes that the Doyle estate is seeking 135 years (1887–2022) of copyright protection for the character of Sherlock Holmes." He further indicated that later "alterations do not revive the expired copyrights on the original characters.”

Fees Awarded

That brings us to the decision this week (also available as an embedded document below), in which the court considered a request from Klinger to reimburse him the nearly $31,000 in legal fees that he incurred in the appeal. Not included in this request was an additional $39,000 in district court fees.

The court decided unanimously in favor of Klinger, awarding him the full amount. Saying that “the defendant’s only defense bordered on the frivolous,” it was clear that the strength of the case was with the plaintiff and that the fees were not unreasonable.

And then Posner went one further by deriding the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. business strategy as one that induced publishers succumb to the pressure to pay a fee or face high legal fees if they didn’t. 

The Doyle estate’s business strategy is plain: charge a modest license fee for which there is no legal basis, in the hope that the “rational” writer or publisher asked for the fee will pay it rather than incur a greater cost, in legal expenses, in challenging the legality of the demand. The strategy had worked with Random House; Pegasus was ready to knuckle under; only Klinger (so far as we know) resisted. In effect he was a private attorney general, combating a disreputable business practice—a form of extortion—and he is seeking by the present motion not to obtain a reward but merely to avoid a loss.

In case you think “extortion” is a bit of a stretch, here’s an excerpt from the letter that CDE sent to Pegasus Books:

If you proceed instead to bring out Study in Sherlock II [the original title of In the Company of Sherlock Holmes] unlicensed, do not expect to see it offered for sale by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and similar retailers. We work with those compan[ies] routinely to weed out unlicensed uses of Sherlock Holmes from their offerings, and will not hesitate to do so with your book as well.

Beyond the extortionate element of the decision, the court also noted that the CDE, in enlisting the support of Amazon et al. in a boycott, was violating anti-trust laws.

Perhaps the CDE will take the court’s final recommendation to heart:

It’s time the estate, in its own self-interest, changed its business model.

A Man for All Seasons

But perhaps the most notable and noble accolade in the decision are about Leslie Klinger himself. The court notes that Klinger “has performed a public service…with substantial risk to himself” and yet has simply asked to recoup only his costs, while he “deserves to be rewarded” for “exposing the estate’s unlawful business practices.”

You can read the entire decision below.

Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. - 7th Circuit Court Awards Damages by I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere
How would you describe the #FreeSherlock viewpoint to someone who doesn't know much about the issue but essentially sides with the Doyle Estate?

Yes, just had a conversation regarding this, and despite knowing my position and my facts very, very well, I fumbled miserably! (This is why I’m a writer—I write soooooo much better than I speak!)

The person in question believes that the Estate should be able to hold the copyright (indefinitely, possibly?) on the SH canon (not quite realizing that most of the characters and stories were already in the public domain in the US and totally free in the UK and Canada), and thought that I would be all for the Estate gatekeeping to “keep the stories pure.”

Of course, the proper response to that would have been to bring up adaptations like The Great Mouse Detective, Young Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Hound, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, Elementary Dear Data and Ship in a Bottle, The Seven Per-Cent Solution, Without a Clue, Murder by Decree, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, the WWII propaganda films with Basil Rathbone, the Warner Bros films, Elementary, Sherlock, and even Madame Vastra! Not to mention the infamous origin of William Gillette’s play: “You may marry him, or murder, or do what you like with him.”

…keep the stories pure? Bit late for that.

Anyway, how would you (assuming, dear reader, that you are a #FreeSherlock supporter) defend that position and counter this idea of gatekeeping?

Special Episode: #FreeSherlock
  • Special Episode: #FreeSherlock
  • Scott Monty & Burt Wolder
  • I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere

Go behind the scenes with us on the #FreeSherlock movement as we talk with Leslie Klinger, the lead plaintiff and Betsy Rosenblatt, intellectual property legal scholar and Sherlockian.

It’s a fascinating interview that will bring you into the struggles and issues behind this very public case, which was just decided. “Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world,” according to Les.

Indeed he does. He belongs to all of us. Here are the full show notes:

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Having watched a teaser for the new Benedict Cumberbatch “Sherlock” [Holmes] series coming out on PBS in January (which was excellent, by the way), I wanted to show off my elegant boxed set of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories and novels published by The Heritage Club (Heritage Press) in 1950 and thereafter.

They are wonderful! Loads of illustrations (by the likes of Frederic Dorr Steele and Sidney Paget) with an embossed “cameo” of the great detective’s visage on the front, along with a facsimile of the initial’s “VR” rendered in bullet holes in his sitting room at 221B Baker Street:

“I [Watson] have always held that pistol practice should be distinctly an open air pastime, and when Holmes, in one of his queer humours, would sit in an arm chair with his hair-trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic VR done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere nor the appearance of the room was improved by it.”

—”The Musgrave Ritual” from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; nb: VR stands for Victoria Regina, the Queen
U.S. threat to kill off BBC's Sherlock

 This is how you know she’s crazy.


Before Benedict Cumberbatch next dons his Sherlock Holmes deerstalker, the BBC may be obliged to start negotiating with an elderly Hungarian-born socialite.

Andrea Plunket claims that not only does she own the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle but also plans to start legal proceedings to prevent the Corporation making any more episodes of its successful Sherlock franchise.

‘I love Guy Ritchie,’ Mrs Plunket tells me. ‘But I am not enamoured of the BBC.’