“On January 1, 2023, copyrighted works from 1927 will enter the US public domain. 1 They will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. These include Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and the final Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, the German science-fiction film Metropolis and Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller, compositions by Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, and a novelty song about ice cream.” – Duke Law School—noting this applies to the United States only.
Other countries have their own lists of works that are newly public domain on January 1st. Except Canada. Canada is entering a 20 year drought where nothing new will enter the public domain.
My sympathy, Greg, to Canadians! Shame on the US for contributing to this mess.
Also of interest:
I suspect that the release of the Sherlock Holmes collection into the public domain will have little or no impact on creative output.
I am a longtime collector of Sherlock Holmes pastiche fiction. People other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began to write Holmes stories soon after Conan Doyle’s death, including his son Adrian as well as noted mystery writers such as Ellery Queen. The output was slow at first, in part because everything required the approval of the Conan Doyle Estate (Dame Jean Conan Doyle), and some of the pastiches were genuinely excellent.
But starting maybe 10-20 years ago, with the growing ease and low cost of DIY publishing, the number of Holmes pastiches in print began to grow much faster. And as part of that growth, the need for the estate’s approval has apparently melted away. The number of books of non-Conan-Doyle-authored Sherlock Holmes stories is now well up into the hundreds (my collection numbers roughly 200), compared with nine volumes of Conan Doyle-penned stories.
I stopped collecting them a few years ago, not merely because it became harder to keep up but because the quality has become, to put it politely, wildly uneven. In addition to silliness (Sherlock Holmes in Outer Space; Sherlock Holmes solves the Kennedy Assassination; Sherlock Holmes Meets Dracula), some of the stories are just really dreadfully written and/or edited. For every one masterpiece (like the novels of Michael Hardwick, or some of Laurie King’s Mary Russell series), there are now a dozen instances of needlessly killed trees.
The release of the Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes might allow writers to use material from the Holmesian Canon without risk of copyright liability, but I don’t see that it will make much difference. There was something to be said for the quality control that the Conan Doyle estate was able to impose on Holmes pastiche literature through copyright and other points of legal leverage. Of course, this is a highly specialized and narrow case, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative of the effects of copyright termination in general.
Thanks for your interesting personal perspective on this, Bill, and happy New Year. I appreciate the last sentence.