Enola Holmes trailer sparks renewed interest in Conan Doyle lawsuit

Case involves an emotional Sherlock Holmes in the last 10 stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 28 August 2020 15:20
Enola Holmes trailer

With the release of the trailer for Netflix’s new film Enola Holmes, interest in a complaint by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has resurfaced.

Originally reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit filed in June targets Netflix, Legendary Pictures, Penguin Random House, and author Nancy Springer, whose book series provided the material for the show, starring Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown.

In 2014, the Conan Doyle estate lost the copyright to any Sherlock Holmes stories written before 1923 (most of them).

Judge Richard Posner rejected the argument that Sherlock Holmes is a “complex” character, that his attributes were created over time, and that denying copyright on the whole Sherlock Holmes character would amount to giving him “multiple personalities”.

However, the Doyle estate maintains its hold on the author’s final 10 original stories, written between 1923 and 1927. It now alleges that the difference between those and the earlier stories is emotions, which was a result of Doyle wrestling with the grief of losing loved ones during World War One.

Millie Bobby Brown in 'Enola Holmes'

“After the stories that are now in the public domain, and before the Copyrighted Stories, the Great War happened,” states the complaint.

“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.”

The Conan Doyle estate previously sued over the character of Sherlock Holmes in 2015, when a complaint was lodged against Miramax over the film Mr Holmes (later settled).

Enola Holmes is still set for release next month on Netflix.