WASHINGTON (AP) – Sherlock Holmes is finally free to the American public in 2023.
The long-running contested copyright dispute over Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of a whipsmart detective – which has even ensnared Enola Holmes – will finally come to an end as the 1927 copyrights expired on January 1 include Conan Doyle’s last Sherlock Holmes work.
Alongside the short-story collection The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, books such as Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, Ernest Hemingway’s Men Without Women, William Faulkner’s Mosquitoes and Agatha Christie’s The Big Four – a Hercule Poirot mystery – became public domain as the calendar turned to 2023.
Once a work enters the public domain it can legally be shared, performed, reused, repurposed or sampled without permission or cost.
The works from 1927 were originally supposed to be copyrighted for 75 years, but the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act delayed opening them up for an additional 20 years.
While many prominent works on the list used those extra two decades to earn their copyright holders good money, a Duke University expert says the copyright protections also applied to “all of the works whose commercial viability had long subsided.”
“For the vast majority – probably 99 per cent – of works from 1927, no copyright holder financially benefited from continued copyright. Yet they remained off limits, for no good reason,” director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain Jennifer Jenkins wrote in a blog post heralding “Public Domain Day 2023”.