Plagiarism case against Apple TV+ drama “Servant” proceeds with a full jury trial

In its third season, Apple TV+ thriller drama series “Servant” is in hot water. The lawsuit accusing the drama’s creators of plagarism will be decided by a jury.

Apple TV+

AppleInsider reports that a federal judge has ruled in favor of complainant Francesca Gregorini and rejected Apple TV+ lawyer’s request to limit discovery and pursue summary judgment.

In January 2020, Gregorini sued creators of Apple TV+ Servant M. Night Shyamalan and Tony Basgallop for stealing the plot of her 2013 film “The Truth About Emanuel” and her production and cinematography styles. The filing read:

“[The] plot description of ‘Emanuel’ could just as easily be applied to ‘Servant,’ made six years later. And that’s just the beginning of the commonalities between the two works. These similarities include not just parallel plot points, but also strikingly similar — and highly idiosyncratic — characters, scenes, directorial choices, and modes of storytelling.”

Both works center around a mother who cares for a doll as if it were a real child, and focuses on her relationship with a hired nanny. Like “Emanuel,” “Servant” deals with grief and emotional attachment after a tragic loss, Gregorini argues.

Apple TV+ servant

Satisfied by the judgment, plaintiff claims intellectual property theft like by Apple TV+ Servant is common in Hollywood

Although the case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Judge John F. Walter in May 2020 stated there were not enough similarities between her film and Servant, Gregorini won her appeal in February 2022.

The appeals court ruled in favor of Gregorini and stated that the dismissal was “improper” as “reasonable minds could differ on the issue of substantial similarity.”

Following that judgment, AppleTV+ lawyers had filed for a request to limit discovery which has been denied, hinting at a jury trial.

In a statement to the publisher, Gregorini’s attorney David Erikson said that the ruling is “truly stunning in suggesting that a full jury trial is required”  which is rare in Hollywood copyright infringement litigation. In this case, the judge is not willing to act as a gatekeeper. He said:

“This ruling says that Francesca’s case is strong enough to make it through the gate, to be decided by a jury of one’s peers.” 

Gregorini equates this intellectual property theft as injustice which is very common in Hollywood. She is looking forward to her day in court. She said;

I’m very much looking forward to my day in court. In Hollywood, injustices similar to mine occur too often— if pursuing this matter can secure a precedent and protect the rights of future independent creators, then I am honored to seize the opportunity.”

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