The film, based on a series of Nancy Springer novels and set 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 the sleut was ever only kind and emotional in books that are still under copyright. In earlier works, which are now in the public domain, his restraint 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 equally known for being singled out and uninteresting,” claims Filing, referring to an excerpt from Conan Doyle’s story in which his longtime friend and assistant Dr. John Watson describes Holmes as “deficient in human sympathy as much as he was at the forefront of intelligence.”
“(T) o Holmes, Watson was utilitarian – get hired when it’s helpful and then procrastinate,” the submission continues. “Holmes didn’t please 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 for years, claims the detective softened only in those later, copyright stories – and that using those gentler character traits of the book and the film “Enola Holmes” therefore infringes copyright.
CNN contacted Netflix, Springer and Penguin Random House, the book’s publisher, for comment.
“Holmes had to be a man,” the submission states, 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 towards her (Sherlock) Holmes initially treats her coldly and then changes to respond to her with warmth and kindness,” he 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 stories published in the public domain does Holmes express such emotion,” it is claimed in the submission.
The claim claims that neither Springer, nor its publisher, nor the producers of the Netflix adaptation sought permission to use Conan Doyle’s copyrighted stories.
In its promotional material in April, Netflix said the new film “talks about Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ rebellious teenage sister Enoli, a gifted super-slate who in her own way surpasses her brilliant siblings.”
It is added that the film “sets a dynamic new female turn towards the world’s greatest detective and his brilliant family”.