Tuesday, June 24, 2014

When is a character a character?

First page of the court ruling

Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, might call it "Elementary," but whether or not a character is fully formed in their first appearance or only once their original author has finished telling all the stories about them (and thus made them "more round") was recently in court.

 As reported recently in Publisher's Lunch,

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2013 lower court ruling holding that 46 Sherlock Holmes stories and four novels created by Arthur Conan Doyle before 1923, along with the signature characters in those books such as Holmes and Dr. Watson, are in the public domain.
In the appeal ruling, written by Judge Richard A. Posner, the issue was once more whether copyright should continue to apply because of 10 additional Sherlock Holmes stories published after 1923 that made the characters "more round." Posner rejected that notion outright: "Flat characters thus don't evolve. Round characters do; Holmes and Watson, the estate argues, were not fully rounded off until the last story written by Doyle. What this has to do with copyright law eludes us." The ruling added: "it appears that the Doyle estate is concerned not with specific alterations in the depiction of Holmes or Watson in Holmes-Watson stories written by authors other than Arthur Conan Doyle, but with any such story that is published without payment to the estate of a licensing fee."

It's a fascinating judgement, that you can read here.

Illustrate and Write On,

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