Sherlock Holmes has been in the news more than usual the past few weeks — partly for the upcoming American broadcast of the popular BBC reboot starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman; if you haven’t seen it already, the first of the three new episodes airs here in the States on January 19th.
The fictional detective also grabbed headlines in late December when a Federal judge ruled that the character of Sherlock Holmes (and other iconic characters like Dr. Watson) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that were published before 1923 were now in the public domain. The judge ruled that except for a few of the later works, the Holmesian characters and story elements can be used freely by writers without having to get a license or approval from the Conan Doyle estate. While this may not be good news for the Conan Doyle heirs, it’s good news for people who want to create their own Sherlockian adventures.
Because copyright has expired for most works published before 1923, that also means you can read many of the original stories for free. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four Sherlock novels and 56 short stories from 1887 to 1927, so all but that last 10 are fully in the public domain — and have been so for years, just waiting for you.
Mobile devices make it even easier to find and read the tales from 221b Baker Street. You can find Sherlock in the free sections of most online bookstores like the Google Play store, Apple’s iBookstore and Amazon’s Kindle store. Project Gutenberg has Sherlock and so do a few dedicated websites. For $18 at Barnes & Noble’s site, you can get a vintage-retro hardback with all 60 Holmes stories. (And don’t forget all the Sherlock Homes films, TV adaptations, radio dramas, comics and other formats you can find with some online sleuthing of your own.)
But let’s get back to the current BBC-produced TV show, Sherlock, airing this weekend here in the States via PBS. You can see old episodes some PBS affiliate sites or the PBS iOS app, or on Netflix; PBS has a preview link to a documentary called How Sherlock Changed the World up as well.
Need a fix for background info and other fandom essentials for what has been dubbed at “BBC Sherlock” in the vast Holmes canon? Visit the Sherlockology site. (As for really dedicated fan work, check out the Wholock video, a home-cooked mashup that combines the Great Detective with that other British staple, Doctor Who.)
If you live to be Sherlocked, you’ve probably been watching Elementary, the CBS version of the Homes tale set in modern-day New York City and starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Holmes and Dr. Watson. If you’ve missed any episodes, you can stream them online from the CBS site or with the CBS mobile app for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone. For new Yorkers, it can be a fun twist on an old English classic, but just remember: Sherlock never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson” in any of the original Conan Doyle stories.