Sherlock Holmes fan to estate: Sherlock belongs to all of us(Read article summary)
Leslie S. Klinger, editor of Holmes anthologies, has filed a civil complaint against the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, alleging that Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain and that the fees writers pay to the estate are unnecessary.
To whom does beloved literary detective Sherlock Holmes really belong?
According to Holmes fan Leslie S. Klinger, everyone.
Klinger filed a civil complaint stating that because the "Holmes" characters and many of the stories were first published before 1923, the fees many have paid to the Conan Doyle estate for use of the characters are unnecessary because Holmes and his exploits are in the public domain in the US. Klinger requests that the court state that the elements of the â€śHolmesâ€ť stories are indeed in the public domain.Â
Klinger, who is also the editor of â€śAnnotated Sherlock Holmesâ€ť as well as the mind behind other Holmes-related works, filed the complaint in Illinois on Feb. 14. According to his complaint, she was motivated to file it after the Conan Doyle estate told publisher Pegasus Books that it would stop a book titled â€śIn the Company of Sherlock Holmesâ€ť from being sold by companies like Barnes & Noble and Amazon unless Pegasus paid the estate a licensing fee. â€śIn the Company of Sherlock Holmesâ€ť was edited by Klinger and features stories about the detective by authors like Laurie R. King.
Klinger said he paid $5,000 to the estate when he released a similar compilation titled â€śA Study in Sherlockâ€ť in 2011. â€śI didnâ€™t want to pay it then,â€ť he told The New York Times, saying of the current request, â€śEnough is enough. This time it was really too big a threat.â€ť
Ten of the â€śHolmesâ€ť stories were released in the US post-1923, but the rest came out before then.
Klingerâ€™s action has caused controversy in the Holmes fan community. â€śThe suit has wreaked havoc,â€ť assistant professor at Whittier Law School Betsy Rosenblatt told The New York Times.Â
Darlene Cypser, who wrote a trilogy about a juvenile Sherlock Holmes, said sheâ€™s in full support of Klingerâ€™s actions.
â€śTheyâ€™ve heard about the way the estate is going around bullying people,â€ť Cypser said of fans in an interview with The New York Times. â€śThis has been coming for some time. Iâ€™m glad Les decided to take it up.â€ť
However, lawyer for the Conan Doyle estate Benjamin Allison said thereâ€™s little room for negotiation.
â€śThe character Sherlock Holmes is protected by copyright,â€ť he told The New York Times. â€śHolmes is a unified literary character that wasnâ€™t completely developed until the author laid down his pen.â€ť
The detective in the deerstalker hat is of course still a hot cultural property, with two successful TV shows (the BBCâ€™s â€śSherlockâ€ť and the CBS show â€śElementaryâ€ť) going strong and a successful reboot of the stories starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law having raked in high box office grosses in movie theaters.
A recent new Holmes story, this one sanctioned by the estate, by Anthony Horowitz titled â€śThe House of Silk,â€ť garnered positive reviews.