By Neville L. Johnson and Douglas L. Johnson
Enola Holmes: Characters and Copyright: The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – the creator of Sherlock Holmes – recently sued Netflix, Inc. for copyright infringement over the upcoming film “Enola Holmes.” The movie is based on a series of mystery novels by Nancy Springer, which feature Sherlock Holmes' 14-year-old sister, Enola Holmes, invented by Springer, as the main character.
Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character appeared in dozens of stories published between 1887 and 1927. Those stories published before 1923 are in the public domain; ten of Doyle's stories published after thereafter remain protected. See Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., 755 F.3d 496 (7th Cir. 2014). Springer's novels feature elements from the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the estate alleges that the film draws key elements from Doyle's later stories that are still protected – namely, the character Sherlock Holmes, who evolved over time into a kinder, warmer person who became respectful of women. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., v. Springer et al., 1:20-cv-00610 (D.N.M., filed Jun. 23, 2020).