Netflix Reaches Settlement In Enola Holmes Lawsuit

Earlier this year, ahead of the release of Enola Holmes on Netflix, it was announced that the streamer was being sued over the film by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes). Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown appeared as the younger sister of the famous detective, played by Henry Cavill in the film and whose appearance was the cause for the litigation. The lawsuit originally targeted Netflix, author Nancy Springer (who penned the book the film is based on), her publisher Random House, and production company Legendary Pictures alleging that they infringed on their copyright. As we wrote before, it was possible that the Conan Doyle Estate would be successful in their attempt and now that the suit has been settled it seems like they might have been.

No specifics on the matter were given publicly but The Hollywood Reporter brings word that all the parties involved filed for the lawsuit to be dismissed as they've settled it out of court. The nitty, gritty of the lawsuit was thus: Despite Sherlock Holmes as a character being over 130 years old and most of the stories featuring him being in the public domain (meaning anyone would be free to make derivative works based on the character without interruption or a say from the Conan Doyle Estate), not every story featuring Conan Doyle's character is actually public domain.

As the original complaint by the estate revealed, fifty of the sixty stories or works written by the author featuring Sherlock Holmes are in the public domain, but ten of them, collected in "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes" and published from 1921 to 1927, are only partially in the public domain. These stories have been slowly been entering the public domain since 2016 but some are still protected. What these stories feature that earlier Sherlock Holmes stories didn't though are a few character traits, as they specifically presented the detective as being "warmer," "capable of friendship," "expressing emotion," and "respecting women."

As the Conan Doyle Estate put it, the novel and movie both featured Sherlock Holmes reacting coldly to Enola and later reacting warmly to her and with kindness as she grows on him. They argued these aspects of the character are still protected by copyright and not included in the public domain Sherlock Holmes stories.

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It is worth noting however that as of January 1, 2023 however, the last of these 10 stories will enter the public domain and that all versions of Sherlock Holmes, including the "warm" amd "woman respecting" version of the character will be free to be adapted by anyone; so for three more years the Conan Doyle Estate can file these suits. They previously sued Miramax over the 2015 feature film Mr. Holmes starring Ian McKellen as the character. That suit was also settled out of court and didn't move to trial.