CHICAGO (CN) - A Sherlock Holmes expert claims in court that Arthur Conan Doyle's estate has no copyright on the character of Holmes, Dr. Watson or the world of Baker Street, as the key elements of that fictional world, and 46 of the 56 Sherlock Holmes stories, are in the public domain.
Leslie Klinger sued Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., a U.K. company, in Federal Court.
"The books and stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ('Conan Doyle') that present the fictional adventures of Sherlock Holmes are not only world famous but long ago achieved the status of iconic artifacts of Western popular culture," the complaint states. "Sherlock Holmes uses astute logical reasoning, his ability to adopt almost any disguise, and his skills in forensic science to solve difficult cases as he pursues criminals throughout Victorian and Edwardian London, the south of England, and continental Europe."
Klinger, of Malibu, California, claims to be "the author and editor of twenty-seven (27) books and dozens of articles on various topics relating to the mystery and thriller genres in literature, including two dozen books and numerous articles on the subject of the so-called Canon of Sherlock Holmes, a phrase that refers to the four (4) novels and fifty-six (56) stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes and other related characters and story elements (collectively, 'the Canon'). By way of example, Klinger is the author of, among other works, the definitive three-volume annotated collection of canonical Sherlock Holmes books and stories titled 'The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes,' which was published by W. W. Norton in 2004 and 2005, and which won the Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical Work. Klinger is widely recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on the Canon and served as the technical adviser for Warner Bros. two recent Sherlock Holmes films and has consulted with many other authors on a number of scripts, books, and comics. Klinger is also an attorney admitted to the practice of law in California and specializes in tax, estate and corporate matters."
Klinger co-edited "A Study in Sherlock," (Random House/Poisoned Pen Press, 2011) a short-story collection by contemporary authors, based on the Holmes Canon.
He and his co-editor, Laurie King, are preparing a sequel to the "Study in Sherlock," to be called "In the Company of Sherlock Holmes," to be published by Pegasus Books and distributed by W.W. Norton.
But the Conan Doyle Estate derailed it, claiming that Holmes, his companion Watson and the world of Baker Street are protected by copyright.
Though there have been "conflicting claims of ownership" of various Conan Doyle rights, "For the purpose of this complaint, plaintiff does not deny that defendant is the sole owner of the Conan Doyle Rights to the extent that any such rights are valid and existing," Klinger says.
However, "Pursuant to the copyright law of the United Kingdom and Canada, the Canon in its entirety, and all of the Sherlock Holmes story elements, entered the public domain in the United Kingdom and Canada, and in other countries not at issue in this complaint, fifty (50) years after the death of Conan Doyle, that is, in 1980."
In 1981, Conan Doyle's last surviving child, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, re-registered the copyright to "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes" in the United States. The book contains 12 stories, which were first published from 1921 to 1927.