Elementary, it is not. In fact, the Adventure of the Bizarre Copyright may be the most complicated Sherlock Holmes case to date, a baffling mystery involving an army of copyright lawyers, a disputed literary legacy, the psychological profiling of the great fictional detective and Mickey Mouse. The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is suing Netflix over the film Enola Holmes, based on the young adult novels by Nancy Springer, in which Millie Bobby Brown plays Holmes’s independent-minded younger sister, solving cases of her own.
In Britain, all of Conan Doyle’s works have been in the public domain since 2000, 70 years after his death, but in the US, where the suit has been filed, the handful of stories written between 1923 and 1927 are still under copyright. The Holmes portrayed in these later works, the estate claims, is markedly different from his earlier incarnation: warmer, cuddlier and more human, in contrast to the cocaine-fueled, unfeeling super-brain of the early Sherlock. The Sherlock in Enola Holmes, played by Henry Cavill, known for portraying Superman, is touchy-feely and emotionally aware, say Conan Doyle’s heirs, and therefore the film infringes copyright.