"I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere" has an interesting little piece today about "the business entity known as the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd." and its reaction to the ruling on the "Free Sherlock" case. The lawyer for CDE, Ltd. is definitely spinning the case's outcome as a victory and giving up as little ground as possible in his response, almost seeming to imply that nothing has changed whatsoever.
But then, if you've ever visited Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd.'s website and are just a little knowledgeable about Doyle and his legacy, you know that spin has been a big part of their approach for a while.
"Only Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. is associated with the family of Conan Doyle," the site says, and presents many a picture of Conan Doyle and his children, with one entire page of "Conan Doyle Family." Yet none of Conan Doyle's children are still alive, none of them had children that they passed his copyrights down to, and Dame Jean Conan Doyle, his last surviving child, left her rights to those stories involved in the court case to the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind then "sold the rights back to the Doyle heirs, who transferred them into a family-owned company" as The New York Times once reported giving the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. its ability to answer its website's question "Who Are Conan Doyle Estate Ltd?" with "Conan Doyle Estate Ltd is owned by the Arthur Conan Doyle family."
Just what part of his family that is, the website is not at all clear, preferring to focus heavily on Dame Jean, Conan Doyle's last direct descendant, even though she is not a part of Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. and Dame Jean plainly thought the Royal National Institute for the Blind should have had the rights, as her will stated.
Those few Sherlockians you will find supporting the "business entity known as the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd." these days tend to be friends of its American agent, though they are usually as quiet about bringing that up as the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. is about which part of the Doyle heirs/family they're connected with.
"I am accustomed to have mystery at one end of my cases, but to have it at both ends is too confusing, I fear," Sherlock Holmes once said in "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client," one of the last stories whose American copyrights are still held by the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. And on that, we can sympathize with him in this case. Just don't borrow that line for your pastiche.