The Conan Doyle Estate recently filed lawsuit allegations of copyright infringement and trade mark infringement against Netflix and book publishers. The Estate holds ownership of the copyright for Conan Doyle’s works that were written between 1923 – 1927. The works made before this time period a have been a part of the public domain since 2014.
The lawsuit alleges the works in the public domain demonstrate the emotionally “warmer” side to Sherlock Holmes. However, the estate deems the work to be an infringement to their acquired rights. Furthermore, the issue of whether emotions can be granted copyright arises here. The short answer appears to be a no. However, as the emotions come alongside a fictional character with unique traits could enhance distinctiveness and therefore the possibility could increase its chances of gaining copyright protection. Netflix has not responded publicly since the lawsuit was filed back in June. However, we could potentially expect an announcement after the launch of Enola Holmes when it is released on September 23.
This is not the first time that the Conan Doyle Estate has attempted to protect their rights, as they have previously carried out lawsuits over the varying depictions of Sherlock.
They targeted Miramax over their representation of Sherlock, by Sir Ian McKellen as a result of him being retired and looking back on reflecting on his life. This was settled “to the satisfaction” of the parties involved, however when it comes to this current suit, only time will tell the outcome.
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