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Why Arthur Conan is suing Doyle’s rights holder against Netflix

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DThe rights holder Arthur Conan Doyles accuses the American media company Netflix and others involved in producing a film about the younger sister of the fictional master detective Sherlock Holmes for violating copyright and trademark law. A nineteen-page complaint alleges that the upcoming film “Enona Holmes” uses such characteristics of Sherlock Holmes that only emerge in stories that are still protected by copyright.

Gina Thomas

Column correspondent based in London.

Conan Doyle wrote a total of sixty Holmes stories between 1887 and 1927, of which fifty works published before 1923 are in the public domain. The rights holders argue that the figure of the detective, who was hitherto presented as unapproachable and cool, becomes more emotional in the stories that have not yet been licensed after 1923. This is because Conan Doyle meanwhile lost his brother and son in the First World War.

When he resumed the Holmes stories afterwards, it was clear to him that it was no longer enough to portray the detective as the brilliant, rational and analytical head. “The character had to develop empathy.” In her “Enona Holmes” thrillers, on which the film is based, the American author Nancy Springer gave Holmes these characteristics. Springer, her publisher, Penguin Random House, screenwriter Jack Thorne, film director Harry Bradbeer and the production companies involved are also accused of copyright infringement in the lawsuit filed with a federal court in New Mexico. Doyle rights holders are seeking a jury trial.

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