So, Netflix often finds itself in a lot of trouble. This time, however, it’s a bit of legal trouble over a very strange portrayal. Remember their recent show Enola Holmes? Well, the Conan Doyle Estate has sued Netflix for portraying their iconic character Sherlock Holmes as “too nice”. Yes, you read that right. One would believe that a movie that portrays such a family-friendly take on Sherlock Holmes would not cause controversy. However, you’d be wrong to believe that.
Netflix sued by Conan Doyle Estate
By the looks of it, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s relatives would prefer to see Sherlock Holmes as a passionless misogynist. The Conan Doyle Estate has sued Netflix, claiming copyright infringement and trademark violation. Now, the majority of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures are public property since 2014. However, the final ten stories were written between 1923 and 1927 still belongs to the Estate. And they claim that these final stories show Sherlock Holmes as a lot “warmer” person than the previous stories. The lawsuit against Netflix said:
After the stories that are now in the public domain, and before the Copyrighted Stories, the Great War happened. 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.
So to summarize it, the lawsuit states that by showing Sherlock Holmes treat Enola with “warmness and kindness,” Netflix has infringed on the 10 copyrighted stories belonging to the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. That is why they have sued Netflix. The main question that rises out of this situation is that can the emotional state of a character be copyrighted? Is Enola Holmes’s version of Sherlock a derivation?
Henry Cavill, who is portraying Sherlock in the series has this to say about it:
I mean, honestly, I don’t have a take on it. It is a character from a page which we worked out from the screenplay. The legal stuff is above my pay grade.
The Conan Doyle Estate also sued Miramax back in 2015
Moreover, Netflix is not the only one whom the Conan Doyle Estate has sued. They also filed a similar lawsuit against Miramax over Mr. Holmes, in which Ian McKellen portrayed a much older depiction of the eccentric detective. They again sued Miramax on similar grounds, that the warm and kind version of the character comes from elements they took from the final ten stories. However, in that case, the two parties reached a settlement. We’ll have to see if Netflix and the Estate would come to such an agreement.