Talk:Ship in a Bottle (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

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Does anyone know what copyrights Dame Jean Conan Doyle thought Star Trek was violating when they used the Sherlock Holmes character in this episode?

As far as I know in the states public domain is death +50. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930 making it perfectly legal to use that character...then again, when an English noblewoman threatens a lawsuit..... User:Dowew

It is death plus 70 years in US. -- 03:21, 10 Apr 2005 (UTC)

But the law involved wouldn't be the one in the U.K. if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is an Englishman and not else? Furthermore... In the page here discused it is stated that J.C.D. was pleased by it and accepted it... But in the page dedicated to her biography it states the exact opposite, here lies contradiction... Is there any possible synthesis for this?

Here's the answer to this seeming dilemma, found right in the article on U.K. copyright law: "Under British copyright law an author may assign copyright rights to another party. It is standard practice that such assignments are made with many book publishing contracts for example. Under the 1911 Act, such assignments reverted to the author's estate 25 years after the death of the author. However, that rule only applies to works made before 1 June 1957." So the estate assumes ownership of the copyright. "Copyright in a work expires 70 years after the death of the person or people who determine the length of copyright. Where more than one person determines the length of copyright, the length is determined to be 70 years after the death of the longest lived of those individuals." Now, generally speaking, the "person who determines the length of copyright" is understood to be the author. However, if copyright of the Holmes characters is owned by the Conan Doyle estate, then public domain has to wait 70 years after the death of the last person in the estate. Minaker (talk) 09:37, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

I separated the last paragraph in question from the main body by moving it into a new "Notes" section, because it sounded like part of the plot synopsis.
- Loadmaster 19:41, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

I caught a rerun of this episode in early December 2010. The end credits featured this note: "The Sherlock Holmes characters were created by A. Conan Doyle. This use by arrangement with Dame Jean Conan Doyle." I don't know if this appeared with the original airing or was added later. The final credit was for CBS Television Distribution (instead of Paramount/Viacom). Just1thing (talk) 20:28, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

Ironic Self-Reference?[edit]

One of the the last lines of dialog goes something like:

Picard: "Who knows? Our reality may be very much like theirs, and all this might just be an elaborate simulation running inside a little device sitting on someone's table."

This sounds like an intentional self-reference on the part of the writers to the fact that Star Trek itself is a fictional story playing on the television sets sitting on viewers' tables. Should this little bit of ironic self-reference be mentioned in this entry?
- Loadmaster 22:26, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

I went ahead and added this fact under the "Notes" section. If this is a problem, someone can (of course) remove it.
- Loadmaster 19:41, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

I removed this, as it is more likely a reference to simulated reality, or the brain in a vat thought experiment. Since I couldn't think of a good way to point that out, and also since I don't even know if it needs to be included in the article, I removed the note entirely. -- 01:23, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

How about something like this:

One of the the last lines of dialog is: <quote goes here>. This is could be construed as a reference to simulated reality, or as an intentional ironic self-reference by the screenwriters.

Loadmaster 15:39, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

--I think this is a possible double meaning (i.e. the ironic self-refence). The main gist I would say is the simulated reality (brain in a vat) theme. This is strongly hinted at at the end of the episode when Barclay says the classic and ubiquitous line 'computer, end program'. Don't we all feel like saying those words sometimes! I think he says it twice, so that he is (at least superficially) satisfied that he is in the real world.

Image copyright problem with Image:TV star trek TNG moriarty.jpg[edit]

The image Image:TV star trek TNG moriarty.jpg is used in this article under a claim of fair use, but it does not have an adequate explanation for why it meets the requirements for such images when used here. In particular, for each page the image is used on, it must have an explanation linking to that page which explains why it needs to be used on that page. Please check

  • That there is a non-free use rationale on the image's description page for the use in this article.
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This is an automated notice by FairuseBot. For assistance on the image use policy, see Wikipedia:Media copyright questions. --04:43, 1 November 2008 (UTC)


ALL Copyrighted literary work published in the United States before 1923 is now in public domain. While the Sherlock Holmes stories, falling first under British copyright law, may have enjoyed European protection for considerably longer, that would not have changed under US law until at least 1994, and may still be in public domain (re: Golan v Holder). In any case, the oldest of the Holmes stories, dating back to the 1870's, are certainly public domain, and at no time was Paramount at any significant risk for copyright infringement with the Doyle Estate. (talk) 16:29, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

The Holmes US copyrights are a tangled web which confuse a lot. What is clear is that:
  • Most if not all of the Holmes stories were simultaneously published in the US at the same time as the UK, and so have enjoyed the same copyright status as US home produced works; it seems this was the point of confusion at the time of "Elementary, Dear Data" as the assumption was that they were in the public domain via international reciprocal agreements.
  • As works created before 1978 they come under "publication + so many years" not "life of the author + so many years" in the US.
  • Using characters from a copyrighted work is considered a derivative. The problem comes when a character is established over the course of a canon of works, some of which are in the public domain and others are still copyrighted. Is it possible to come up with a version of the character who is based only on the parts of the canon in the public domain? You can argue it either way but as far as I know this question has not yet been determined in a US court.
  • If you're a TV producer taking legal advice, your priority is to make the programme and have it shown on time, and then afterwards to be able to make further income from repeats, overseas sales, video releases and so forth. It's not to have the project sitting in development hell or have a finished programme impounded & unable to earn money while the lawyers take years to get a firm court ruling to resolve that question (no matter how useful the right answer might be in the long run). So it's better to work on the assumption that permission is needed and secure it, or abandon the project if permission can't be secured. Different media companies take different levels of caution in their approach.
  • When "Elementary, Dear Data" was made and shown in 1988, The Valley of Fear (1914-1915) was just still in copyright in the US under the publication + 75 years rule at the time. This story features Moriarty and thus it could be argued he was still in copyright by virtue of it. By "Ship in a Bottle" the question was now whether Moriarty was referenced in any further adventures still in copyright or whether he was now public domain. Holmes & Watson were definitely featured in further adventures with the last published as late as 1927.
  • (Law changes since TNG have extended the publication + period to 95 years, albeit only covering material from 1923 onwards; unlike the EU changes which drove it earlier copyrights were not revived.)
  • On top of everything else, getting permission from Conan Doyle's daughter while she was still alive was a way for a number of Holmes spin-offs to claim a degree of formal approval. Even the Jeremy Brett series, produced in the UK at a time when the entire canon was in the public domain, sought out Jean Conan Doyle's public approval for having Holmes quit taking cocaine.
  • And all of this is without dealing with the mess about who owns what rights to the Doyle estate.
Timrollpickering (talk) 18:15, 19 February 2011 (UTC)