Netflix Finally Responds to the Conan Doyle Estate for ‘Enola Holmes’ Lawsuit

Quite possibly, Sherlock Holmes is one of, if not, the most popular fictional characters in the world. If anything, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made detective work seem so exciting and mysterious rather than gore-filled and static. The character has been in households in the forms of books, films, and TV series––people just can’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes.

Most recently, however, the fictional character has appeared in the Netflix film titled Enola Holmes where Henry Cavill had the privilege to portray Sherlock. Although, that very same film has been filed a lawsuit by the estate of Conan Doyle. The lawsuit is reportedly against the streaming giant as well as other entities involved in the creation of the film.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional character in Sherlock Holmes is absolutely in the hands of the public––just not the last ones he’s created, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, to which are still under copyright. The estate of Conan Doyle claims that Enola Holmes has violated the copyright because Sherlock Holmes in the movie acted as if he was in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. Netflix has responded, and the motion reads:

In this case, even if the Emotion Trait and Respect Trait were original to copyright protected works, which they are not, they are unprotectable ideas. Copyright law does not allow the ownership of generic concepts like warmth, kindness, empathy, or respect, even as expressed by a public domain character — which, of course, belongs to the public, not Plaintiff.

The fictional character, for most of its existence, has always been portrayed as a still character––very deductive and analytic. With Henry Cavill, however, it’s always felt like Sherlock has a warmer, almost comforting, aura. With that, Netflix has argued that his emotions are not subject to copyright.

The suit does not end there as the estate also claims that by calling the film Enola Holmes, it has already been implied that the movie is endorsed by the estate. Netflix has also responded, and the motion reads:

Here, Plaintiff attempts to use trademark law to do what copyright law can no longer do: prevent others from freely using and adapting Sherlock Holmes in their own works. But this is not the function of trademark law. Allowing Plaintiff to prevent the creation of new works featuring public domain material runs contrary to the ‘carefully crafted bargain’ embodied in copyright law, and Plaintiff’s attempt to create a perpetual copyright should be rejected.

Written by Dave Cunningham

Raised and born in West London. Dave is currently studying BA in Psychology at CUNY Hunter College. Netflix favourites: You, Stranger Things, Ozark & Virgin River.

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