Netflix is set to release a fun new twist on the Sherlock Holmes legend in the near future – Enola Holmes, starring Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown as the eponymous younger sister of the Great Detective. Both Sherlock and Brown fans are excited for the movie, then, but not everyone’s on board with it. The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, the literary character’s creator, is taking Netflix to court in a copyright lawsuit.
As revealed by Deadline, Doyle’s estate filed a 19-page complaint against the streaming giant in New Mexico federal court, with the central point being that the “copyright infringement arises from defendants unauthorized copying of original creative expression by [Conan Doyle] in copyrighted Sherlock Holmes stories.”
The estate’s argument is that, while most Holmes stories are in the public domain, the final 10 Doyle wrote were published from 1923-1927, so they’re still in copyright. The suit notes that, following his tragic experiences in World War I, Doyle endeavored to add more humanity to his detective as well as “significant new character traits.” It’s claimed that Enola Holmes borrows from concepts established in these later stories.
As per the suit:
“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.”
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The suit argues that the movie marks a “willful, deliberate, and ongoing infringement of the Conan Doyle Estate’s copyrights.” On the back of this, Doyle’s estate is seeking a jury trial and is demanding the defendants pay them unspecified damages. Director Harry Bradbeer and writer Jack Thorne are among the case’s defendants, as is Nancy Springer and Penguin Random House, the author and publisher of the books the film is based on.
It’s unclear how things will proceed from here, but it’s worth noting that a similar lawsuit was filed against 2015’s Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen, and that was ultimately settled out of court and dismissed a few months after.
Also starring Henry Cavill as Sherlock himself and Sam Claflin as eldest sibling Mycroft, Enola Holmes was originally due for a theatrical release from Legendary until the pandemic changed plans. A release date has yet to be announced.