Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes as Enola Holmes
Movies - TV
Breaking Down The Weird Lawsuit Over Netflix’s Enola Holmes
Many pop culture figures have become public domain, allowing anyone to reinterpret these beloved characters. One such iconic figure is Sherlock Holmes.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective began entering the public domain in 1981 when 1887’s “A Study in Scarlet” made the transition. Others were free to start reimagining his work.
When author Nancy Springer published her first “Enola Holmes” novel in 2006 — based on the world established by Doyle — she was mainly in the clear.
Netflix adapted Springer's story and released "Enola Holmes" in 2020. Unfortunately, Doyle's estate then sued Netflix, Legendary Pictures, and even Springer.
The Conan Doyle Estate alleged that Springer and the other parties infringed U.S. copyright and trademark law, citing the ten remaining stories published between 1923 and 1927.
The complaint stated that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had created "significant new character traits for Holmes and Watson" in those ten stories protected by copyright law.
They argued that early Sherlock Holmes was depicted as “aloof and unemotional” but became more emotionally forthcoming in the later stories under copyright protection.
The lawsuit claimed Springer, Netflix, and the others had infringed upon this more emotionally open Holmes, who appears kind-hearted in “Enola Holmes.”
As The Hollywood Reporter detailed in December 2020, Netflix, Legendary Pictures, and the other accused parties settled with the Conan Doyle Estate, and the lawsuit was dismissed.
However, as writer Aaron Moss highlighted in Copyright Lately, this dismissal means that the question of whether emotions can be copyrighted remains unsolved.