2014 kicked off with the return of BBC Sherlock. Series Three burst onto our screens with a riot of unexpected kisses (Sherlock/Mollie, Sherlock/Moriarty!), zip wires, a big blue inflatable and the world’s strangest best man speech. We met Sherlock’s parents (Benedict Cumberbatch’s real-life parents,) we saw his love for John and John’s love for Mary. We had a wedding, a pregnancy and a returning face from the past.
Millions enjoyed the series, others like me had their doubts but the success of the show cannot be denied.
2014 also saw an end to the uncertainty surrounding the future of Undershaw, former home of Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The house has now been bought by a school and they have proved to be careful custodians so far, honoring the building’s heritage and restoring/adapting it sensitively.
But for me, the biggest thing to happen in the Holmes universe in 2014 has been Leslie S Klinger winning his lawsuit against the Doyle estate. Klinger’s tireless actions have freed the character of Sherlock Holmes for the world.
The suit was instigated by author Leslie Klinger, who co-edited two anthologies of new Holmes tales written by modern authors. He sought a judgment that would enable him to use material from 50 of Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories without having to pay a fee to the Doyle Estate, something they had demanded from his publisher.
As the Free Sherlock website explains – ‘Throughout the suit, the estate had argued that although most of the Holmes stories are in the public domain, the famed detective himself was still under copyright because certain character traits were developed in later, still protected books. That meant new stories featuring Holmes couldn’t be created until the very last work in the series fell into the public domain in 2022, according to the estate.’
Fortunately, the judge sided with Klinger and it was decided that the estate’s case lacked “any basis in statute or case law for extending a copyright beyond its expiration” and the appeal “border[ed] on the quixotic.”
This means that thousands of pastiche writers, movie makers, producers and publishers can now use the character of Sherlock Holmes and all the characters outside of the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (which is still under copyright in the US) without having to pay anything to the Doyle Estate.
So here’s to lots more Sherlock Holmes creativity in 2015! Free at last.