Author’s Estate is Suing Netflix For Copyright Infringement
The estate of legendary writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is suing Netflix for copyright and trademark infringement. Netflix is releasing a movie called “Enola Holmes,” a film about the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, who is also a skilled detective. Doyle was the exclusive author of all of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
On June 25, 2020, Fox News reported that the estate filed a 19-page complaint in federal court in New Mexico.
In addition to Netflix, the estate is also suing, “the author, writer and director of the Millie Bobby Brown-led film…as well as Nancy Springer, the author of “The Enola Holmes Mysteries” book series, on which the movie is based.”
Enola Holmes Movie Leads to Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
The complaint alleges that the copyright infringement stems from the unauthorized copying of Doyle’s “original expression” by Doyle in “copyrighted Sherlock Holmes stories.” Springer is the author of a series of books about Sherlock’s sister Enola, a character she created. Doyle’s estate complains that it is the portrayal of Sherlock himself in the movie that violates his expression. According to CNN, it is “the show’s depiction of Sherlock Holmes as kind, caring and respectful of women is a violation of the author’s copyright.”
Movie Version of Sherlock Holmes Character Violates Copyright
Many of Doyle’s early works about Sherlock Holmes are public domain now. However, the first works portray Holmes as aloof, unemotional, and “deficient in human sympathy.” Many of Doyle’s later works contain a different picture of Sherlock- The family claims that after his son was killed during the war, Doyle began to inject more empathy, connection, and humanity into Sherlock’s character. The works that contain this kinder, gentler version of Sherlock Holmes, as he is portrayed in “Enola Holmes”, only exist, according to the estate, in works that are still protected by copyright.
Family Claims Some Sherlock Holmes Stories Remain Protected by Copyright
The first Sherlock Holmes book was published in 1892. All books published before 1924 are part of the public domain. Books that are published after 1923 but before 1978 are protected by copyright for 95 years. It is the position of his family that the character of Sherlock, as portrayed in the movie, derives from work that is still protected by copyright.
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