Sherlock Holmes

The Case of the Public Doyle-main


The Trend of Enforcing of Copyright Term Limits

Understandably, intellectual property owners try to extend copyright protection for their successful works and characters beyond their term. Superman, Micky Mouse, Betty Boop, Amos and Andy, the song “Happy Birthday,” and any number of other characters and works have been involved in attempts to extend the creative monopoly of copyright. Sometimes owners simply ask Congress to extend the term, sometimes owners claim trademark protection when they’re really trying to protect the copyright, or offer creative copyright theories to skirt around the notion that copyright protection shall exist “for limited times” as mandated in the Constitution. However, a recent trend in courts has popped up, enforcing those copyright limits against intellectual property owners, and rejecting efforts to further extend protections of works that otherwise might have entered the public domain. See, e.g., Fleischer Studios, Inc. v. A.V.E.L.A., Inc., 654 F.3d 958 (9th Cir. 2011). Today’s decision in Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. (7th Cir.) continues the trend. (more…)