For Jonathan Kirsch, a Los Angeles attorney, it's elementary: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary works published before 1923 are in the public domain.
Kirsch and Scott Gilbert of Chicago's Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP are seeking to have the federal court in Chicago declare that most of Doyle's books and stories involving his most famous creationSherlock Holmesare no longer protected by copyright law.
Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1887 and was followed by three novels and 56 short stories. The stories were collected in five books, and the last one, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, was the only volume published after 1923.
The attorneys represent Leslie Klinger, an author who has written extensively on Holmes. Most recently, Klinger co-edited A Study in Sherlock, a Random House-published "collection of new and original short stories by prominent contemporary authors, all of which were inspired by" the Doyle stories, according to the complaint. He and his co-editor, Laurie King, are working on a sequel that is, according to the complaint, to be published by Pegasus Books and distributed by W.W. Norton.
The complaint alleges that while Random House agreed to a licensing agreement with the agent of the Conan Doyle estate, Pegasus Books hasn't, spurring Klinger to file suit to clarify the copyright question.
"Part of the reason we're litigating the question is because Sherlock Holmes has entered popular western culture in a fundamental way. Filmmakers and authors have a stock of material that they can innovate onlike the Bible and Shakespeare. We believe that Sherlock Holmes has also entered that stock of public domain material that anyone can innovate on," Kirsch said in a telephone interview on Feb. 15.
Benjamin Allison, an attorney with Sutin Thayer & Browne APC in Santa Fe, N.M., represents the Conan Doyle Estate. Allison didn't respond to a call and email seeking comment.
The case is Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd, 1:13- cv-01226, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
Zynga, Electronic Arts agree to settle copyright suit claims
Electronic Arts Inc. and Zynga Inc. agreed to settle claims that Zynga's "The Ville" game copied "The Sims Social," an EA game that runs on Facebook.
"EA and Zynga have resolved their respective claims and have reached a settlement of their litigation in the Northern District of California," Zynga spokeswoman Kelly Kunz and John Reseburg, an EA spokesman, said in separate emailed statements.