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Legal | The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn a June decision by the Seventh Circuit affirming that the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before Jan. 1, 1923, have entered the public domain. The estate had long insisted licensing fees be paid for the characters and story elements to be used in movies, television series and books, but author, editor and Holmes expert Leslie Klinger refused to fork over $5,000 for an anthology of new stories. In a series of legal defeats, the Doyle estate not only lost any claim to the stories but had to endure stinging public reprimands by Judge Richard Posner, who labeled the licensing fees as “a form of extortion” and praised Klinger for performing a “public service” by filing his lawsuit.
In its petition to the high court, the Doyle estate continues to cling to its argument (gleefully dismantled by Posner) that Holmes is a “complex” character that he was effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States; therefore, the entire body of work remains protected by copyright. Hoping to draw the interest of the justices, the estate points to a circuit split on the matter of extending copyright. The lawyers also repeat the unsuccessful argument that Klinger’s case shouldn’t have been heard until after his book was published. In June, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kegan refused to issue a stay to prevent the Holmes stories from officially entering the public domain. [TechDirt]
The Ignatz Awards were handed out Saturday night at Small Press Expo in a ceremony that culminated with a mock wedding in which Simon Hanselmann married Comics (represented by a stack of graphic novels and real-life creator Michael DeForge).
Named in honor of the brick-wielding mouse in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat strip, the festival prize recognizes achievement in comics and cartooning. Nominees are selected by a panel of five cartoonists, and then voted on by SPX attendees.
You know those ideas that you’d never think of yourself, but when you hear about them, they’re so brilliant and so obvious that you wonder how you couldn’t have thought of them? This is one of those ideas: The Library of Congress is creating The Small Press Expo Collection, with the intent of adding a gravely under-preserved area of comics to the permanent archives of the United States’ official storehouse of knowledge.
Spearheaded by SPX executive director and chairman of the board Warren Bernard, the Collection will serve multiple purposes. It will archive the ephemera of the Bethesda-based alt/indie comics convention itself, including the posters, badges, and programs created by cartoonists for the Expo, and even each year’s SPX website. It will also include every print comic nominated for the Expo’s festival award program, the Ignatz Awards. (For the time being, only the winner of the Best Webcomic Ignatz will be digitally archived.) And it will collect a selection of the comics that are available for purchase at each year’s show — a selection dominated by minicomics and other self-published works that are often difficult if not impossible to find once their tiny initial print runs have sold out.
As someone who’s gotten a lot out of SPX over the years, I think this is providing a vital service — a time capsule of the state of alternative and art comics, updated yearly. An Please read TCJ.com editor Dan Nadel’s entire interview with Bernard about this fascinating project. Then be sure to go to this year’s SPX next weekend, where my fellow Roboteer Chris Mautner and I will be hosting panels about the kinds of comics that will soon make the Library of Congress their permanent home.