A US judge has ruled that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were no longer protected by copyright in America.
Judge Ruben Castillo was responding to a case against the author Arthur Conan Doyle estate by lawyer and Holmes scholar Leslie Klinger, who has edited collections of newly written Sherlock Holmes stories.
Klinger went to court to defend an anthology with the characters, and Castillo determined that any characters and story elements from before 1923, which is the cutoff date for the copyrighted stories, were authorized for other authors, the Verge reports.
Doyle's estate argued that only the incremental changes they introduced in the ten later stories could be protected by copyright, which means that anybody can write about Sherlock Holmes, but they might have to leave out some details that were added in later stories.
The estate insisted that it would work with retailers to pull the book off shelves, the report added.
For example, Watson's past as an athlete or Holmes' retirement from his detective agency could not be used by any author.