November 12, 2013

In this installment of the “Content Matters” column, Jenner & Block Partner Andrew J. “A.J.” Thomas explores questions surrounding when a literary character qualifies for copyright protection and in what form the character can enter the public domain.  A.J. examines the issue through the lens of an ongoing battle between the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a scholar of Doyle’s enduring Sherlock Holmes character.  The scholar sued the estate earlier this year, seeking a declaratory judgment that elements of the character published before 1923 are in the public domain.  Doyle’s estate has responded that all aspects of the character remain protected by copyright because Doyle did not finish creating Holmes until he wrote the last story in 1927.