A legal ruling has given film-makers and authors the right to create their own Sherlock Holmes stories in the US without having to pay a licence fee.
The characters and the essential Holmes storyline are, Chief Judge Rubén Castillo ruled in a court in Illinois, US, public property and no longer belong to the Conan Doyle Estate.
He cautioned, however, that the judgment applies only to elements of the characters and plotlines that were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before 1923. Those written later, such as Dr Watson’s having played rugby for Blackheath, remain protected under US copyright law.
The ruling followed a claim by Leslie Klinger, editor of “The Complete Annotated Sherlock Holmes” and other Sherlock-inspired books, taken against the Conan Doyle Estate which had maintained the characters remained under copyright.
Mr Klinger told the New York Times: “Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world, and this ruling clearly establishes that. People want to celebrate Holmes and Watson, and now they can do that without fear.”
The Conan Doyle Estate is understood to be considering an appeal.