The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle filed a lawsuit against "Enola Holmes" for having emotions

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No, Enola Holmes is not on Netflix now, and you won’t watch it this weekend. Did you watch the trailer you posted? It comes out September 23.


I wonder whether the estate has intentionally avoided filing until this was about to be released on Netflix to maximize the sunk cost and therefore the chance of a settlement. After all, if the whiff of a lawsuit was around when this project was trying to get funding, it probably would have killed the project.


My wife and I have been binge watching House, which ran from 2004 to 2012. It’s obviously a riff on Sherlock Holmes (disguised as a medical drama). Since most of that pre-dates 2010, did they run into legal problems with the Doyle estate as well?

Also, for material as old as Holmes, doesn’t copyright expire at different times in different jurisdictions? Could Netflix just avoid the whole mess by not streaming to certain locations for a couple years, while the show gains notoriety and a following elsewhere?


Not in the UK. Doyle died in 1930, so everything he ever wrote entered the public domain on 1 January 2001.

Of course, everything he ever wrote had previously entered the public domain in 1981, but subsequently left it again in 1996 when British copyright law changed with retrospective effect…


Why not just make a movie about Enola Smith, the teen sister of a sociopathic detective? However one feel’s about the Doyle estate trying to protect what they view as their IP, if you don’t try to cash in on someone else’s imagination these lawsuits won’t happen.


Holmes was just a rip-off of Émile Gaboriau’s Lecoq.


If you don’t see how treating century-old culture as current-day “intellectual property” is a fucking problem, then you have a bright future at the Walt Disney corporation.


Let’s see:

  • Is an arrogant and curmudgeonly genius.
  • Has a friend/sidekick who’s a doctor with the initials ‘J.W.’
  • Is a drug addict.
  • Is called House, for crying out loud.

Yeah, I think you have a point.

Maybe the estate had different lawyers back then?


This is where patents have an interesting approach. Priority dates are important because you only get a patent if you were the first. You can also apply for additional patents based on the original material you submitted, called a continuation. Even add more material in some cases.

The catch is that all of the patents that based on that priority date expire after 20 years (21 if you do a provisional). Even if you apply and get a patent 19 years after the priority date, it still expires 20 years from the priority date.

(there are some caveats, otherwise why would we need lawyers)

I think they’d have a much harder time making that stick. At least in the U.S. (and I think likely in the UK too), copyright protects expression, not ideas–and the similarities between House and Holmes are either fleeting or pretty firmly in the realm of ideas. Here, there’s at least a closer connection–Enola Holmes is portraying the actual Sherlock Holmes character, though I think it’s still one hell of a stretch.


I hope the suit goes to court just see it laughed out of it. The estate should be grateful that these constant riffs on the Canon still generate interest in their ancestor’s legacy – public domain or not.


House also lived at 221B Baker St.


You know, this is precisely why I always thought if I was rich I would make my kids wait until they were, like 50 to get a dime. Or maybe they never would. It seems that the surest way to curse your progeny is wealth.


I recommend the Laurie R. King books about Mary Russell, wife of Sherlock Homes and co-sleuth. There are only three of them, but they are good. ‘A Letter of Mary’ has a lovely scene with Lord Peter Wimsey doing ‘Yes, we have no bananas’ in the style of Bach and Scott Joplin…


Enola Holmes,
Your literary chromosomes
Enola Holmes,
Derive in part from copyrighted tomes …

(doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo doo-DOO doo-dee DOO doo …)


There are actually over 16 books in the series so far. Some fair, some excellent.


Right? Almost nothing is entirely original. That’s how culture works, no matter how much corporations would like it to be otherwise.


Great Scotland Yard! - there were only three when I searched (okay - I started from the Lord Peter reference, but it didn’t mention any others). At the time, ‘A Letter of Mary’ was supposed to be the last. Now, let’s see if I can get them without Amazon…

Thanks, comrade. And welcome to BoingBoing!


Did Shakespeare have a single original plot? IIRC, he lifted the histories straight from Holinshed.