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posted by martyb on Saturday July 19 2014, @12:15PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the who-was-not-a-Jeopardy-contestant dept.

SCOTUSblog tells us:

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan refused on Thursday afternoon to block a federal appeals court ruling against continued copyright protection for fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, for any stories about him that have entered the public domain. Kagan acted without even asking for a response from an author who is preparing a new Holmes anthology, and she gave no explanation for her denial of a stay.

More background on the case and details about the filing in this detailed earlier SCOTUSblog post which notes:

[Sir Arthur Conan] Doyle has been dead for eighty-four years, but because of extensions of copyright terms, ten of his fifty-six short stories continue to be protected from copying. All of the short stories and four novels were published between 1887 and 1927, but all of the collection except ten short stories have entered into the public domain as copyrights expired.

The Doyle estate, though, is pressing a quite unusual copyright theory. It contends that, since Doyle continued to develop the characters of Holmes and Watson throughout all of the stories, the characters themselves cannot be copied even for what Doyle wrote about them in the works that are now part of the public domain and thus ordinarily would be fair game for use by others.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by nyder on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:19PM

    by nyder (4525) on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:19PM (#71209)

    Nice to see we have at least one sane judge out there.

    If they want to make money from new stories, they should be writing them, not forcing everyone to pay a license fee for a character that was made over 100 years ago.

    • (Score: 1) by theronb on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:55PM

      by theronb (2596) on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:55PM (#71218)

      From TFA, "The Doyle estate, though, is pressing a quite unusual copyright theory." They thought they'd try out this flakey idea and the court didn't buy it. No news here - courts reject flakey ideas from money grabbers quite regularly.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Hairyfeet on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:18PM

        by Hairyfeet (75) <bassbeast1968NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday July 19 2014, @04:18PM (#71256) Journal

        The mere fact that some of his stories are still "protected" even though the man died a decade before WWII frankly ought to make everybody want to puke, of course as long as Disney can keep buying congress old douchey Jack Valenti's "forever minus a single day" will be the law when it comes to copyrights on anything made after 1930.

        --
        ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday July 20 2014, @12:31AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 20 2014, @12:31AM (#71359) Journal

        On the other hand, Disney seems to get its way every time.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 5, Funny) by davester666 on Saturday July 19 2014, @07:18PM

      by davester666 (155) on Saturday July 19 2014, @07:18PM (#71283)

      woohoo, finally stuff from the 1800's is leaving copyright protection!

      course, now all their heirs are going to have to live in poverty, because the royalty stream is going to dry up.

      we better extend copyright terms again, because I have no incentive to create anything unless my great great great grandchildren will still be able to make money from it.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:17PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:17PM (#71305)

        "course, now all their heirs are going to have to live in poverty, because the royalty stream is going to dry up."

        Well they don't have to live in poverty. They could, you know, get a job or something. My grandpa made hundreds of millions. I got a job at 15 and I have worked all my life. Oh I've had perks and advantages that many people don't get, but the money has to be extra, not define who you are.

        • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:32PM

          by bucc5062 (699) on Saturday July 19 2014, @09:32PM (#71311)

          Hey, would you or your grandpa want to invest in a small horse farm located in South Carolina?

          Wait..no...just kidding...unless you're interested. You have no way of making money, but boy you'd help a good person achieve a dream, work his ass off for little money, but maybe retire poor but happy. See, my pappy, being a minister, didn't make much, got demencia before he died, changed his will thanks to my POS sister and left his sons with nothing from his paltry estate. I'll get there, but boy howdy I'm getting fucked by the real estate market and time.

          I do agree, money should not define who you are.

          --
          The more things change, the more they look the same
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @11:37PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @11:37PM (#71342)

        now all their heirs are going to have to live in poverty

        Intellectual property was never meant to be a retirement plan.
        From Article 1 Section 8: [wikipedia.org]
        To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries
        Note also that it does NOT mention heirs anywhere there.

        I'll bet all these people call themselves Christians.
        Let's see what their scriptures say about this:
        if any would not work, neither should he eat
            2 Thessalonians 3:10 (KJV)

        Seems like a fair arrangement to me.

        -- gewg_

        • (Score: 4, Informative) by dry on Sunday July 20 2014, @03:55AM

          by dry (223) on Sunday July 20 2014, @03:55AM (#71405) Journal

          It's older then the American Constitution. The originals full name was

          An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned

          also known as the Statute of Anne, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_Anne [wikipedia.org]
          Note even back then the elected House of Commons was willing and intending to make copyright infinite and it was the unelected upper house that brought sanity to the table, a good example of why having an unelected upper house can be good.
          Another thing of interest is that even then the publishers were screaming that it was for the authours even as their business plans were to make a small lump sum payment for rights and milk it forever.
          Funny enough the UK now has infinite copyright for some works, Peter Pan is one though it is for a good cause, the copyright supports a childrens hospital. The King James Bible is another that is copyrighted forever in the UK. Can't have commoners repeating the lords word.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @11:12PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19 2014, @11:12PM (#71335)

      In my submission, I suggested
      from the I'm-really-liking-this-Kagan-chick dept.

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by BsAtHome on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:21PM

    by BsAtHome (889) on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:21PM (#71210)

    I'm shocked to hear that you can be denied copyright protection! We need a term extension!

    The hard-working third generation offspring of Sir ACD is entitled to reap the benefits from their long dead family-members for ages to come. Who are you uninventive people who seek to add to the commons of culture. That is a communist approach and should never be allowed to exist in our capitalist foundation. It is not your bloodline that created something wonderful!

    (FYI, sarcasm may be part of this post)

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by cafebabe on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:51PM

    by cafebabe (894) on Saturday July 19 2014, @01:51PM (#71216) Journal

    This is an awkward issue. I was under the impression that copyrighted characters remained in copyright if they were still under development. I was definitely under the impression it worked that way for comic book characters. For example, public domain superheros [wikia.com] which fell out of copyright due to lack of copyright notice or lack of development. And characters such as Sabrina Skunk [sabrina-online.com] which are licensed with conditions by their creators [sabrina-online.com].

    --
    1702845791×2
    • (Score: 1) by Buck Feta on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:45PM

      by Buck Feta (958) on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:45PM (#71244) Journal

      Very interesting. So what's the import for fan fiction? It's ok to create, just not for commercial purposes?

      --
      - fractious political commentary goes here -
      • (Score: 2) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:53PM

        by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:53PM (#71248)

        Fan fiction violates trademark laws, but most trademark owners don't do anything about it because they'd be pissing off their own fans and generating ill will. They tolerate fan fiction as long as it's mostly on the down low.

        Now if you sold your own stories under their trademark, they'd lawyer up and you'd play Alderaan to their Death Star. So if I wrote and published a Star Wars novel for sale, George Lucas--wait, Disney--would come after me.

        As an intellectual property owner, you have to defend your trademark or it isn't taken seriously.

        If you reproduced someone's work, you'd be violating copyright law. You'd be disseminating their copyrighted works.

        As always, don't take my comments as legal or medical advice. If you want flower arranging advice, consult a Zen monk.

        --
        (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)
        • (Score: 1) by jbWolf on Sunday July 20 2014, @05:58AM

          by jbWolf (2774) <jbNO@SPAMjb-wolf.com> on Sunday July 20 2014, @05:58AM (#71431) Homepage

          It isn't just fan fiction writers that have to worry. I wrote a long Star Wars parody, published it on the Internet, and I constantly worry about what "The Mouse" will think. Here's an interesting tidbit from an article [creators.com] I ran across:

          • Parody is a form of protected expression under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which, among other things, guarantees "freedom of speech").
          • If the person or company you're making fun of doesn't like your parody, they will sue your pants off anyway, forcing you to spend tons of money in legal fees so you can assert and defend your First Amendment rights.

          Wanting to publish my parody, I finally decided to address this issue directly and wrote a letter to Disney in my website [jb-wolf.com] on the same page that I offer my story. (Scroll down to the very bottom on that link.)

          All the craziness with trademarked names and perpetual copyrights has led to me to wonder what would be optimal. What should we be targeting as an optimal set of laws concerning copyrights, patents, and trademarks? That's not something I see too often so I also decided to address that in my website as well. I've presented some ideas that I think would be interesting to talk about with others and (once ideas are more flushed out), ultimately present to Congress as a larger group.

          --
          www.jb-wolf.com [jb-wolf.com]
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:49PM

      by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Saturday July 19 2014, @03:49PM (#71245)

      As far as I know, there is no copyright on characters or fictional situations, only on published works. You're probably thinking of the trademark issue, where if a property is not used in so many years, the owner loses the right to keep the trademark active. That's why Marvel and DC will bring back some property from the past for a mini-series that doesn't sell much, just to use the trademark. A good example of this was the New Mutants from 2009-12, where Marvel launched a series because this property had not been used in a long time and had to have its trademark renewed. Interest was minimal (the sales numbers show a spike from crossovers and a deep, terminal decline otherwise), but the property was trademarked. At the time, rumors of a movie under development were circulating, but they came to nothing and by the time this trademark is up for renewal again, the property will be worthless.

      I'm no more a lawyer than a doctor, so don't take my comment as the final word. You should consult an intellectual property attorney. And a real doctor, for that matter. Getting legal or health advice from comments on news stories isn't healthy.

      --
      (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)
      • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Sunday July 20 2014, @03:56PM

        by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 20 2014, @03:56PM (#71527) Journal

        Getting legal or health advice from comments on news stories isn't healthy.

        Hmmm ... I've read that in a comment on a news story ... so I basically should ignore this advice? But then, ignoring it would imply not ignoring it ...

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
        • (Score: 2) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Sunday July 20 2014, @04:32PM

          by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Sunday July 20 2014, @04:32PM (#71543)

          You cracked the code! The subtle interpretation is to both take and ignore the advice at the same time. If it works, credit your own cleverness; if it does not work, you have someone to blame. In other words, use quantum mechanics to defer whether you take or ignore the advice until you measure the outcome, then make a final commitment. Maybe this is getting too "meta" for a story about fan fiction.

          Hey, I always wanted to write some Star Wars fan fiction. I had several novels outlined. Then Disney bought them. So I thought - why would I write anything for a Disney property? Very discouraging. For me - whether it is for anyone else depends on your opinion of fan fiction - but I think I could do better than Kevin J. Anderson. Actually, the monkeys with typewriters...

          --
          (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)