The film, based on a series of Nancy Springer novels, and released on Netflix in September, follows the younger sister of the legendary detective, a character created by Springer.
But the estate of the late author objected to the way Holmes was portrayed in the series, claiming that sleut is ever only kind and emotional in books that are still under copyright. In earlier works, which are now in the public domain, his dress and lack of empathy are key aspects of his character and must be respected in any adaptation, the estate argues.
Many of Sherlock Holmes’ later titles are still protected by U.S. copyright law.
“While Sherlock Holmes is known for his great powers of observation and logic, he is almost known for being distant and uninteresting,” the submission claims, citing an excerpt from Conan Doyle’s story in which his longtime friend and assistant Dr . John Watson describes Holmes as “deficient in human sympathies as he was and a leader in intelligence.”
“(T) o Holmes, Watson was utilitarian – get hired when it’s helpful and then procrastinate,” the submission continues. “Holmes did not treat Watson with warmth.”
Although most of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are available in the public domain and can therefore be adapted by anyone, a number of later stories – written after World War I that had a profound impact on the author – are still copyrighted.
The estate, which has gone after other alleged infringements in recent years, claims the detective softened only in later, copyrighted stories – and that, using those gentler character traits, the books and film “Enola Holmes” therefore infringe copyright.
CNN contacted Netflix, Springer and Penguin Random House, the book’s publisher, for comment.
“Holmes was supposed to be a man,” the submission says, after describing the impact of the war on Conan Doyle. “He became capable of friendship. He could express emotion. He began to respect women.”
“[T]Springer’s novels extensively use Holmes Conan Doyle’s transformation from cold and critical to warm, polite and kind in his relationships, ”the estate claims.
“Springer puts Enola Holmes at the center of the novel and has (Sherlock) Holmes initially with her in cold blood, then changes to respond to her with warmth and kindness,” it adds.
He quotes an excerpt from Springer’s 2008 book The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, in which Holmes takes care of Watson after he disappears. “Nowhere in the public domain stories does Holmes express such emotion,” the submission claims.
The filing claims that neither Springer, nor its publisher, nor the producers of the Netflix adaptation have sought permission to use Conan Doyle’s copyrighted story.
In its promotional material in April, Netflix said the new film “is about a rebellious teenage sister of Enol Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, a gifted super-rally who is right in her own right and who often surpasses her great siblings.”
It adds that the film “puts a new dynamic female turn towards the world’s greatest detective and his dazzling family”.