Sherlock Holmes enters public domain!

I hope this illustration of Sherlock Holmes is now in the public domain

Sherlock Holmes is free! Run wild Holmes! Sherlock Holmes is now in the public domain in America–but wait–only the pre-1923 Holmes. Any characteristics of Holmes developed after 1923 are off-grounds.

Fascinating how copyright law works. People can now do anything with the Sherlock Holmes as long as they are based on the fifty Holmes works that Arthur Conan Doyle published before Jan. 1, 1923.

Holmes fan-fic authors, brush up on your pre-1923 Holmes.

How does this law apply to other areas?

With paintings, it’s pretty straightforward. Any painting pre-1923 is open game. Paintings are a bit more of a self-enclosed world. Books, with imagination required, are a bit more loose with interpretation.

What if a painter used a particular character in his paintings throughout his career. Would that character in the pre-1923 paintings be available to public domain? I’d imagine so. But anything new the character did after 1923 is off game. Like, if the character decided to pick up the game of croquet, forget about reusing that.

What sort of innovation will we see with Sherlock Holmes?

There’s already plenty with the PBS series and upcoming movies. Will there be underground Holmes? Super-hero Holmes? Oh wait. That’s Batman. Sherlock Holmes with a tommy gun? Oh wait. Dick Tracy.

Some ideas posted on reddit:

  • CRichS: This would be pretty interesting in the new 52:
  • vivvavDeadmod: Kinda hoping to see him in DC Comics now. It’d be great to have him meet Jonah Hex.
  • NiKva: Does that mean that Sherlock Holmes can now be featured in video games without extra costs over licensing? If so, I want him in the next Smash Bros games… and maybe Mario Kart, too.
  • Beatnick: I’ve always felt there should be more Sherlock sitcoms
  • ronocdh:¬†Sherlock Matters, Everybody Loves Sherlock, Holmes Improvement, Holmes

Dinosaur Comics has the best idea, involving a glowing dog.

Dinosaur Comics on Sherlock Holmes

What would you do with Sherlock Holmes?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments or on your favorite social media channel. This question appears on Quora, Yahoo Answers,, Twitter, and Google Plus. This blog post was originally inspired by @criticalmargins’ tweet.

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