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June 24, 2014

Sherlock Holmes and Fandom

Sherlock Holmes burst like a whirlwind into John Watson's life in Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet. The detective, forensics enthusiast, and sometimes showman has since captivated readers and inspired countless recreations.

A Federal court just released an opinion in Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate declaring that aside from Doyle's final 10 stories, earlier Holmes works are now in the public domain. Pending a possible appeal, people wishing to write new material about the characters may not have to seek permission from or pay licensing fees to the Doyle estate.

Readers interested in this copyright case might also want to check out But I'm your biggest fan! Handling trademark problems posed by fan-created content. By Anne Gilson LaLonde and Jerome Gilson (Gilson on Trademarks), this book examines trademark and copyright issues stemming from fan activity. The book addresses fan websites, fan fiction, merchandise, art, and more. In addition to explaining the legal issues behind fandom, this guide also gives practical advice for dealing with fan-created content that goes beyond threatened or actual legal action.

As useful for an attorney as for the superfan in your life, this short, readable guide gives a quick overview of important legal issues surrounding unauthorized work by fans.

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