Once again, reality surpasses imagination.
Netflix is being sued in the US District Court in New Mexico (Case 1:20-cv-00610 CONAN DOYLE ESTATE LTD. v. SPRINGER et al) for copyrights infringement in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes character.
In a nutshell, Doyle’s estate argue that Netflix’s new upcoming film “Enola Holmes” present a Sherlock Holmes personality still protected under Copyright Law. Doyle’s estate claims that Holmes evolution of feelings over the years and books, created a new character, still entitled to copyright law protection.
This case present an interesting question relating to copyrights in fiction characters and reminds me of my own adventure with the subject, when I represented (with my previous office) a young writer that was sued by Yigal Mossinson estate for copyright infringement relating to the iconic Israeli Hasamba books’ characters.
The court (in Israel) decided that the evolution of the characters, mainly their grotesque future invented by the writer, falls into the Fair Use protection in copyrights and was regarded as a parody review.
Can fiction characters that develop emotions or different characteristics be regarded as a “new” work (thus entitled to a new copyright protection term)? Can Netflix succeed with a fair use protection argument? These are complex questions that provide different protection arguments. As I said, once again, reality reality surpasses imagination.