At the heart of the dispute is whether a character can be copyright protected over an entire series of works
original short stories featuring characters and other elements from Doyle’s work. If appeals judges hold it up, the ruling could lift the threat of legal action for the untold scores of writers out there churning out pastiches and fan fiction without permission. Most of them fly under the radar. In Klinger’s case, the estate demanded $5,000, he said. “Whatever decision they make will essentially determine the fate of many characters, not just Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but very intricate characters such as James Bond. ... What happens as copyrights expire on Ian Fleming’s original stories?” said Doyle estate attorney William Zieske. At the heart of the dispute is whether a character can be copyright protected over an entire series of works. The Doyle estate argues that a basic element of copyright law allows for that if the character is highly delineated, as opposed to a two-dimensional character who doesn’t change over time. In ruling against the estate, Judge Ruben Castillo called that a “novel legal argument” that was “counter to the goals of the Copyright Act.” The lawsuit was filed in Chicago because a literary agent for the Doyle estate is based in Illinois. Doyle produced a total of four Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 stories between 1887 and 1927.