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Published: 4 January 2021

Sherlock Holmes' 'Copyright Emotions:' Unsolved

Last September, we published a blog post on Sherlock Holmes and his
‘copyright emotions

A new development in the case has recently been made public.

Firstly, let’s recap why we were talking about copyright in relation to emotions, and, confusingly, to Sherlock Holmes in the first place.

News had broken of a copyright dispute between Netflix and the Arthur Conan Doyle estate because of the Enola Holmes film release.

Also involved in the dispute were the author of the Enola Holmes books, the book's publisher, and the film’s production company.

There were no allegations of copied plot lines, script, or any other tangible
copyrighted materials
that you would typically expect from a copyright infringement case.

Bizarrely, the reason for the copyright dispute was emotions. Sherlock Holmes’ emotions.

Netflix's Enola Holmes is an adaptation of the book series by Nancy Springer, and is about an imagined younger sister to the famed Sherlock Holmes.

The majority of the Sherlock Holmes catalogue is in the public domain, so
derivative works of these are entirely legal.

However, there are a number of Holmes books still under copyright protection in the US.

The Conan Doyle estate claimed that, as the Enola Holmes book and adaptation feature Sherlock Holmes displaying kindness and other warm emotions, they are in infringement of the last remaining copyrighted Sherlock Holmes novels.

These books feature Holmes displaying acts of kindness, which the Conan Doyle estate claimed were not present in the earlier public domain works.

The Conan Doyle estate insisted that these emotions were copyrighted to the character.

The case was taken to court and has proven to be a complicated one, with many eagerly awaiting the results.

Whether these results be the court agreeing with the Conan Doyle estate, that emotions can be copyrighted, or the opposite, that they are too general to be protected, the ruling has the potential to shape the future of copyright regulation.

However, the case has recently been dismissed, and it now seems as though the matter was settled between the parties outside of the courts.

A disappointing end, perhaps, to one of most intriguing high-profile cases in recent times.

It leaves little clarity for those who were wishing to have a definitive answer on whether or not a case such as this is likely to ever occur again.

The remaining copyright protected Sherlock Holmes works are all due to enter the public domain in the US by 2023, so it is unlikely that we will hear about Sherlock Holmes' 'copyright emotions' again.

Disclaimer: The information given on this website does not constitute legal
advice. We recommend that you seek specialist legal advice in accordance with specific circumstances

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