Sherlock Holmes mystery: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate and the case of character licencing rights
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Thursday 01 August 2013
Sherlock Holmes would have unravelled the case in a heartbeat. Yet so far there is no explanation as to why the estate of the fictional detective’s creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has failed to fight a lawsuit in the US that could leave it out of pocket.
The battle over licencing of the character and stories are being played out in a US court and the verdict could prevent the estate asserting certain rights to Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr John Watson.
Holmes has enjoyed a huge revival in recent years, which shows no sign of slowing. A third instalment of the adaptations directed by Guy Ritchie is in development, as is a third series of the BBC’s Sherlock. Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller as a modern day Holmes, has proved a big success for CBS. The Conan Doyle Estate Ltd licenced the television shows and the movies in the US.
The lawsuit was brought in Illinois federal court in February by Leslie Klinger, who advised on the first two Guy Ritchie films, and also wrote The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.
His book In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, which comprises new stories about the detective by modern day authors, elicited a letter from the Conan Doyle estate demanding a licensing fee.
Mr Klinger took the estate to court claiming the copyright on certain story elements had expired and he should be allowed to publish. The court entered a default against the estate when no one turned up.
Mr Klinger has demanded that a judgment is rendered which would see the estate unable to collect any further licensing revenue. There is still no response from the heirs.
A representative of the estate in the US could not be reached, while the copyright rules are different in the UK. An agent who works with the estate in Britain said the works were now out of copyright but the rights to the characters were under licence to someone she would not name.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Revealed after 75 years of secrecy: 'Fifi' the glamorous WW2 special agent who tested British spies' resolve
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Laurie Lee's Rosie: What is it like to inspire a writer's work and be immortalised forever on the page?
Doctor Who series 8: Time Heist pictures revealed ahead of episode 5
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Well this Star Wars 7 leaked set photo of Adam Driver changes everything
Pharrell Williams says that 'Blurred Lines' criticism is 'out of context'
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'