“The law is clear that the original version of the character enters the public domain at the same time as the work that contained it, even if subsequent installments or episodes are still under copyright,” says Jennifer Jenkins, Director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain of Duke University.
“But not every rights owner likes that answer! This was an important issue last year when the original Winnie-the-Pooh entered the public domain. It will be front and center next year when the first appearance of Mickey Mouse goes into the public domain. And it is a theme this year because in 2023 the copyright will finally expire over The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, which contains the last two Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.”
Read the full post Public Domain Day 2023 by Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domainis licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The article identifies books, movies and musical compositions that entered the public domain on January 1, 2023.
Why it matters
“For years the Doyle estate has tried to prolong copyright over the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Now its character-copyright game is up,” said Duke’s Jenkins.
“Uunder US copyright law, anyone is free to use a character as it has been developed in public domain works, whether it is Winnie-the-Pooh, Sherlock Holmes, or Mickey Mouse (next year). If that character recurs in later works that are still under copyright, the rights only extend to the newly added material in those works, not the underlying material from the public domain works—that content remains freely available,” according to her article.