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BBC Eyes Legal Options as CBS Preps Sherlock Holmes Update

Jan 23, 2012  •  Post A Comment

As CBS goes ahead with plans for an update on Sherlock Holmes, producers of BBC’s version of the venerable detective have warned that they will take necessary action if the U.S. version is too close to theirs, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reports.

BBC is currently riding high on the critical acclaim and popularity of “Sherlock,” which also brings Holmes into a modern setting. As previously reported, CBS revealed plans last week for “Elementary,” which moves Holmes to present-day New York.

Sue Vertue, an executive producer on BBC’s “Sherlock,” told the U.K. publication The Independent: “We understand that CBS are doing their own version of an updated Sherlock Holmes. … We are very proud of our show and like any proud parent, will protect the interest and wellbeing of our offspring.”

CBS network executives apparently inquired about doing a U.S. remake of BBC’s "Sherlock" before changing their minds and deciding to go ahead with their own version.

Said Vertue: “It’s interesting, as they approached us a while back about remaking our show. At the time, they made great assurances about their integrity, so we have to assume that their modernized Sherlock Holmes doesn’t resemble ours in any way, as that would be extremely worrying.”

There has been no word about whether "Elementary’s" New York-based Holmes will be British. But in the modern setting, the show will invariably include current technology — computers, cell phones, forensics — as BBC’s "Sherlock" does. And that may raise copyright issues.

The Independent quoted copyright specialist Margaret Tofalides saying: "The concept of a new Sherlock Holmes is unprotectable. But if the unusual elements of the BBC series — the modern settings, characters, clothes, plots and distinctive visual style — were closely reproduced in the CBS version, that could form the basis of a potential copyright claim."

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