Apple TV+ sued for Copyright Infringement for Series

A copyright infringement complaint has been filed against Apple, producer M. Night Shyamalan, and other individuals and corporations for the Apple TV+ series Servant. The complaint, filed on January 15 in the Central District of California, alleges not only inspiration, but outright duplication of the premise, cinematic language, theme, and even the appearance of props, set, and actresses from the movie Emanuel, a Sundance Film Festival premiere. The plaintiff is director Francesca Gregorini, who is represented by Erikson Law Group.

The complaint alleges that the copyright for the screenplay for Emanuel (2011) and the final movie (2012) preceded the premiere of Servant by at least 8 years.  The plaintiffs purport that not only did Apple and the others involved in Servant have access to Emanuel, but they actively solicited access to these materials as part of a screening of work for another project, Berlin Station, pitched by director Gregorini. The complaint also alleges a continuing pattern of infringement on the part of Apple. Finally, the complaint specifically names prior alleged infringement on the part of producer M. Night Shyamalan regarding his earlier films The Village and Signs.

A side-by-side comparison of stills from Emanuel and Servant.
One of many side-by-side comparisons between Emanuel (left) and Servant (right) from the complaint.

The complaint also goes to great detail as to plot points, chronology, props, styling, and character appearance, going so far as to say that the actors who portray the male antagonist in the works could have been “fraternal twins.”. The complaint lists over 40 points of commonality between the works and argues that the first 3 episodes of Servant could be considered to be a retelling of the movie with minimal deviation.

Gregorini also alleges that the defendants have tarnished her work with “a layer added to Servant by its all-male team of creators and producers (including creator and writer Tony Basgallop, and executive producer/director M. Night Shyamalan), in which this female-centric story is sometimes seen through the eyes of two men… Mr. Shyamalan and Apple TV+ diminish Ms. Gregorini and her largely female team.”

The claim alleges counts of copyright infringement and vicarious infringement and seeks relief of sequestration and destruction of the materials in Servant under neutral 3rd party supervision, disgorgement of all profits, punitive damages, future damages regarding the career of Gregorini, pre-judgment interest, and legal fees.

Servant premiered on November 28, and has been renewed for a second season.