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It's been asserted several times on this forum that all of Conan Doyle's Holmes stories are now in the public domain (i.e., no longer protected by copyright). As I understand it, this is true in the UK (and presumably in certain other countries as well). But it's not quite true in the US, where (as I understand it) copyrights last 90 years, so Conan Doyle's last few Holmes stories are still under copyright here, and the last copyright won't expire till 2017. However, the Conan Doyle estate has been using this fact to claim that they still own a US copyright on the original characters, not just on those last few stories. As you might expect, this claim has been challenged in court, and a US district court judge has just ruled that the estate is wrong. Here's an excerpt from the NY Times article: Chief Judge Rubén Castillo of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, stated that elements introduced in Holmes stories published after 1923 — such as the fact that Watson played rugby for Blackheath, or had a second wife — remain under copyright in the United States. (All of the Holmes stories are already in the public domain in Britain.) But the judge rejected what he called the estate’s “novel legal argument” that the characters remain under copyright because, it claimed, they were not truly completed until Conan Doyle published his last Holmes story in 1927. “Klinger and the public may use the pre-1923 story elements without seeking a license,” the judge wrote. .