Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Sues Netflix for Copyright Infringement Over ‘Enola Holmes’ Movie

Upcoming Netflix movie illegally pulls from a “warmer” Sherlock Holmes that is not in the public domain, according to new lawsuit

Last Updated: June 25, 2020 @ 10:32 AM

The estate for Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is suing Netflix and several other parties involved in the upcoming film “Enola Holmes,” for copyright infringement and trademark problems with a project about the detective’s sister.

In a suit filed on Tuesday in New Mexico, the Conan Doyle Estate is also taking aim at Legendary Pictures, Penguin Random House, and author Nancy Springer whose book series inspired the “Enola Holmes” film that will star Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”). Director Harry Bradbeer, screenwriter Jack Thorne, PCMA Management and Productions and EH Productions UK are also named in the lawsuit.

The copyright violation mentioned in the lawsuit stems from an “unauthorized copying of original creative expression by (Doyle) in copyrighted Sherlock Holmes stories.” While Doyle’s pre-1923 work is now in the public domain, his last 10 stories, from 1923 to 1927, are still controlled by his estate. And the estate is arguing those later stories feature a “warmer” Sherlock Holmes — and that the upcoming Netflix movie illegally lifts from those more emotional stories.

“After the stories that are now in the public domain, and before the Copyrighted Stories, the Great War happened,” the lawsuit said. “In World War I Conan Doyle lost his eldest son, Arthur Alleyne Kingsley. Four months later he lost his brother, Brigadier-general Innes Doyle. When Conan Doyle came back to Holmes in the Copyrighted Stories between 1923 and 1927, it was no longer enough that the Holmes character was the most brilliant rational and analytical mind. Holmes needed to be human. The character needed to develop human connection and empathy.”

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The “Enola Holmes” film broke the law by copying characters and creating derivative work from Doyle’s later work, the lawsuit added. The Doyle Estate is seeking to enjoin defendants from further infringement on intellectual property; it’s also seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

“Enola Holmes” will be released in August, according to the suit, although Netflix hasn’t given it an official launch date.

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