Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For the Heirs to Holmes, a Tangled Web; New York Times, 1/19/10

Dave Itzkoff, New York Times; For the Heirs to Holmes, a Tangled Web:

"For a 123-year-old detective, Sherlock Holmes is a surprisingly reliable earner.

Though readers were not always informed of his compensation for, say, uncovering the truth of the Red-Headed League or bringing the Hound of the Baskervilles to heel, Holmes remains a valuable literary property.

His adventures in books, plays, television shows and movies continue to pay dividends for the heirs of his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes’s latest appearance on film, directed by Guy Ritchie, has sold more than $311 million in tickets worldwide, and on Sunday won a Golden Globe award for its star, Robert Downey Jr.

At his age, Holmes would logically seem to have entered the public domain. But not only is the character still under copyright in the United States, for nearly 80 years he has also been caught in a web of ownership issues so tangled that Professor Moriarty wouldn’t have wished them upon him.

“It is,” said Jon Lellenberg, the American literary agent for the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, “enough to make lawyers’ eyes roll up in their heads. Even British lawyers.”..."

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