Sherlock Holmes puts both feet in the public domain

The first of January marked public domain day in the united stateswith the entry into the public domain of several iconic texts published in 1927. Across the Atlantic, the date of publication of a work is used to calculate its entry into the public domain, and not the death of its author, as is the case in France, in particular.

Thereby, To the Lighthouse (The walk to the lighthouse) by Virginia Woolf, Men without Women by Ernest Hemingway or even Recovered timefinal opus of the saga In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, are free of rights. Of course, these are the original versions: the French translations remain covered by copyright, up to 70 years after the death of the author of the translation.

In addition to these texts, great films, such as the classic Metropolis by Fritz Lang, or The Jazz Singer by Alan Crosland, the very first production with dialogues, also join the national heritage.

But 2023 also allows to the late works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to free themselves from all constraints. Begun in 1887, the adventures of Sherlock Holmes ended with a final collection of short stories signed by the British author in 1927. The Sherlock Holmes Archive contain, among others, titles such as The Stone of Mazarin, The Sussex Vampire or The Three Gables.

In 1998, nearly seventy years after the author’s death, the author’s heirs came together under the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd label. They thus extended their rights over the peregrinations of the British detective. But the legal deadline has now expired and the resident of Baker Street is now free of rights more than 96 years after the release of the final volume of his adventures.

Not so basic…

Now freely accessible, the writer’s original texts have inspired and still inspire many adaptations today. Until now, it was necessary pay royalties to the rights holder’s society : this had also earned Netflix to be taken to court for its filmed version of the books Enola Holmes, in 2020. The latter, written by Nancy Springer, adapted characters from Conan Doyle, still partly covered by copyright. The copyright holders had previously sued Springer, for the same reasons, to no avail.

READ: Copyright: Netflix Reaches Enola Holmes Lawsuit

The latest short stories by Conan Doyle, in the public domain since January 1, 2023, can therefore also be freely translated, republished or even adapted again. It remains to be seen whether, as Baby or Winnie the Pooh (free of rights since last year), it will be the subject of a wacky reinterpretation…

In the UK, Holmes had already fallen into the public domain in 1980, before a legislative change kept it under protection until the 2000s.

In Canada, on the other hand, following the passage of a law just before the end of 2022, the protection of private rights was extended by an additional 20 years. It thus passes from 50 to 70 years after the death of the author. As a result, no work will enter the Canadian public domain until 2043.

This decision stems from the new version of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement (CUSMA) allowing free trade legislation. This treaty has already been in place since July 2020: the two other territories concerned already apply the 70-year rule. In short, Canadian law adapts to the international standard.

In France, 2023 saw the entry into the public domain texts by Paul Éluard, Charles MaurrasCéline Arnauld, Roger Vitrac and the Prix Goncourt 1923 Lucien Fabre.

via CBR, comic book

Photo credits: Enola Holmes – Netflix

Sherlock Holmes puts both feet in the public domain