(USA Today) -- Now's the time to dust off that Sherlock Holmes story you've been working on.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that 46 Sherlock Holmes stories and four novels written by Arthur Conan Doyle before 1923, along with the characters, are in the public domain.
The ruling upholds a 2013 decision by a lower court in the suit between author Leslie Klinger and the Conan Doyle Estate. Klinger filed the suit after he attempted to publish an anthology of new fiction featuring the famous detective, and the estate demanded licensing fees. The copyright on all but 10 of Conan Doyle's stories has run out, but the estate claimed that the 10 later stories made the characters "more round" and that all the stories and characters should remain protected.
The court has rejected that argument. Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in the ruling, "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." He 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."
Klinger told Reuters that he is "very, very pleased" with the decision and that he hopes his own anthology could be published in November.
Those last 10 stories are still under copyright until 2022, and any material from them is still off limits without a licensing fee paid to the Conan Doyle estate. The court noted, for instance, that it is only in these stories that "Holmes's attitude toward dogs has changed — he has grown to like them — and that Watson has been married twice."