What Can We Learn From the Netflix ‘Enola Holmes’ Contract Dispute?

Conan DoyleThe headlines caught my eye also. As the story is told, the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle filed a lawsuit against Netflix (and others involved in the Enola Holmes movie) for copyright and trademark infringement regarding the Sherlock Holmes material.

Conan Doyle wrote 4 novels and 56 short stories featuring Holmes and Enola, his younger sister, a teenage detective who brings out a more sensitive side of her famous brother.

In reading my blogs for all these years, we all know that Courts have held that an “Estate” is not an entity that can be a party to litigation. It is the personal representative of the estate, in a representative capacity, that is the proper party. How can an estate sue someone? The mystery begins….

Further research lead to me down a long and dark road where THIS ESTATE IS REALLY A CORPORATION. It’s the Conan Doyle Estate Limited (so shady), and per their website, “A new company is established by 8 members of the family all of whom are relations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by blood or marriage. The company is led by a board of three family directors whose work continues to this day in promoting, protecting and developing the legacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” LOL, these people! There’s even a “Free Sherlock” movement to make the character free to the people.

The Doyle estate (errrr corporation) has a long history of claims against authors and other creators, insisting on licensing fees for the use or reference to the Great Detective. In 2015, they filed a suit against Miramax over the film “Mr. Holmes.” To be honest, they do get creative in their allegations, their arguments pay homage to their famous lineage.

Since estates are not natural or artificial persons, they simply lack legal capacity to sue or be sued. In fact, only the personal representative of a decedent’s estate would have the right to intervene in litigation for the benefit of all the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate.

We’re on to them…..mystery solved.

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