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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate sues over Netflix film

On Behalf of | Sep 29, 2020 | Firm News |

Many people in Oregon may view estate administration as a singular event rather than a process: the court reviews one’s assets, settles their debts, and then disperses whatever remains to designated beneficiaries (all done with the assistance of the estate’s executor or personal representative).

In reality, however, it can take months (or even years) to settle an estate’s affairs. In some instances, the process seemingly never ends. This is especially true in estate cases involving artistic or intellectual properties that others may want to later use or reference. In such a scenario, it falls to estate representatives to ensure that its assets are not used without proper authorization (or in the wrong context).

Netflix portrayal of Sherlock Holmes prompts lawsuit

The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle now argues that the latter is the basis for the lawsuit it recently filed following the release of a Netflix film involving the famous character of Sherlock Holmes. According to, the question in this case does not focus on the use of the character (most of the stories in which Holmes appears are now public domain), but rather in the movie’s interpretation of him. Estate representatives argue that the film portrays Holmes as being warm and friendly (which contrasts the image of him as a stoic and reserved character in the stories) and that this contrasting portrayal violates the estate’s copyright on the character.

The need for a capable personal representative

Not only does this case demonstrate how complex issues related to an estate can be, but it also shines a light on the need to name a capable person to the role of executor or personal representative (given the task they must assume). Having reliable legal guidance when making this decision during the estate planning process may help ensure that occurs.