In a potentially unexpected turn of events, a federal judge has issued a ruling which places Sherlock Holmes, Watson, 221B Baker Street, and Professor Moriarty, among others, in the public domain. The ruling declares that the characters, written by Arthur Conan Doyle published prior to January 1, 1923, are no longer covered by United States copyright law. This means that they can be can be freely used by persons, such as other authors, without paying fees to the Conan Doyle estate.

The decision was rendered in a case filed by Leslie S. Klinger, editor of the three-volume “Complete Annotated Sherlock Holmes,” and involved a different collection of Holmes writings titled “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes.” The second work was written as a collaboration and edited by and Laurie R. King.

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