Sherlock Holmes is too nice in upcoming Netflix adaptation, lawsuit argues

The movie, based on a series of Nancy Springer novels and which will be released on Netflix in September, follows the younger sister of the legendary detective, a character created by Springer.

But the late author’s inheritance has opposed the way Holmes is portrayed in the series, arguing that the detective was only kind and emotional in the books that are still under the author’s copyright. In previous work, now in the public domain, his estrangement and lack of empathy are crucial aspects of his character and must be respected in any adaptation, states the state.

Many later Sherlock Holmes titles are still protected by the United States copyright protection law.

The estate has filed a case against Netflix, US-based producers Springer, its publisher Penguin Random House, and others in the US District Court for the District of New Mexico, just three months before The film, starring Henry Cavill as Sherlock and Millie Bobby Brown as the main character, Enola, will be released on the video platform.

“While Sherlock Holmes is famous for his great powers of observation and logic, he is almost as famous for being aloof and emotionless,” the presentation argues, citing an excerpt from a story by Conan Doyle in which his friend and assistant Dr. Holmes is described by John Watson as “as deficient in human sympathy as preeminent in intelligence.”

“(T) or Holmes, Watson was utilitarian – to be employed when useful, and then set apart,” the presentation continues. “Holmes did not treat Watson warmly.”

While most of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are available in the public domain and therefore can be adapted by anyone, a series of later stories, written after World War I, that had profound impact on the author, they are still under copyright.

The property, which has gone after other alleged infringements over the years, argues that it was only in those later copyrighted stories that the detective smoothed out, and that by using those milder character traits, the books and the movie “Enola Holmes” are therefore infringing copyrights.

CNN has contacted Netflix, Springer, and Penguin Random House, the publisher of the books, for comment.

“Holmes needed to be human,” says the document, after describing the impact of the war on Conan Doyle. “He became capable of friendship. He was able to express emotions. He began to respect women.”

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“[T]”Springer’s novels make extensive infringing use of Conan Doyle’s Holmes transformation from cold and critical to warm, respectful, and friendly in their relationships,” states the state.

“Springer places Enola Holmes at the center of the novels and initially (Sherlock) Holmes treats her coldly, then switches to respond with warmth and kindness,” he adds.

He quotes a passage from Springer’s 2008 book “The Case of the Weird Rare”, in which Holmes cares about Watson after his disappearance. “Nowhere in the public domain stories does Holmes express such emotion,” the presentation argues.

The filing claims that neither Springer nor its publisher nor the producers of the Netflix adaptation requested permission to use Conan Doyle’s copyrighted stories.

Conan Doyle died in 1930 after publishing dozens of stories about his legendary detective. Since his death, “Sherlock Holmes” has formed the basis for numerous movies and television series, including the popular BBC version, “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role.

In its April promotional material, Netflix said the new movie “tells the story of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ rebellious teenage sister Enola, a gifted super detective in her own right who often beats her brilliant brothers.”

He added that the film “gives a new and dynamic feminine turn to the best detective in the world and his brilliant family.”