Enola Holmes copyright infringement lawsuit settled by Netflix

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Netflix has paid up to end a court case brought by the Conan Doyle Estate over the movie Enola Holmes.

It seems that ‘Enola Holmes & the Case of the Copyrighted Sherlock’ may be one Holmes adventure that we never get to see solved.

If you’ve been following this story for a while, you’ll recall that the Conan Doyle Estate, holders of the copyright for a few of the later Sherlock Holmes adventures, took Netflix to court for infringing copyright in its 2020 film, Enola Holmes. 

The basis for the legal challenge in question was the representation of the character of Sherlock in the film. The great literary detective is largely a public domain character, meaning anybody is free to adapt those works without permission.

However, thanks to changes in copyright law in the 1970s, the Conan Doyle estate still holds the rights to some of the later Sherlock Holmes adventures. The estate was claiming that Henry Cavill’s performance of Sherlock in the film was kind and gentle towards women, two elements to the character that only surfaced in the later books, and was therefore protected by copyright.

Netflix responded to the accusation in due course, offering plenty of evidence to the contrary and giving many examples of non-copyrighted stories where the character of Sherlock had been kind to women or gentle in his demeanour.

However, the streaming giant’s attempt to have the case dismissed was rejected by the court, which may have been a key moment in the legal battle, perhaps diminishing Netflix’s confidence that it could win the case outright.

As such, it has been announced by The Hollywood Reporter that all parties have agreed to a settlement figure, although that will remain undisclosed.

In the longer term, we’ll have to see what effect this has on the development of an Enola Homes sequel, because it would likely either require Netflix and Legendary cutting some sort of deal with the Conan Doyle estate, or the series’ portrayal of Sherlock suddenly shifting to a markedly colder one. Frankly, we’d still find that less jarring than having a Sherlock with biceps the size of a small European country.

Although we may never quite get to the bottom of this one, it seems the case is closed.

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