In a ruling Friday, chief judge Ruben Castillo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found that four novels and 46 short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle about the temperamental detective were in the public domain and could be freely re-interpreted by anyone wanting to write new works of Sherlock Holmes fiction.
The exception, the judge found, were 10 of Mr. Conan Doyle’s Holmes short stories published in the U.S. after Jan. 1, 1923. Anyone writing a new Sherlock Holmes story can only use character traits introduced in these post-1923 works with the agreement of a company owned by the late writer’s heirs, Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.
From The NY Times:
The ruling came in response to a civil complaint filed in February by Leslie S. Klinger, the editor of the three-volume, nearly 3,000-page “New Annotated Sherlock Holmes” and a number of other Holmes-related books. The complaint stemmed from “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,” a collection of new Holmes stories written by different authors and edited by Mr. Klinger and Laurie R. King, herself the author of a mystery series featuring Mary Russell, Holmes’s wife.
Read the Full Text of Ruling (23 pages; PDF)