Apple and M. Night Shyamalan must face director’s lawsuit in latest court twist

  • Gregorini claims Shyamalan’s show ‘Servant’ copied her film
  • 9th Circuit finds works are similar enough to continue case

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(Reuters) – Apple and director M. Night Shyamalan must face a lawsuit claiming their TV show “Servant” is a ripoff of another director’s film, a U.S. appeals court has ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday concluded that a reasonable person could find Francesca Gregorini’s film “The Truth About Emanuel” similar enough to Shyamalan’s “Servant” to support Gregorini’s claims, reversing a lower court’s ruling.

Gregorini sued Apple and Shyamalan for copyright infringement in 2020, arguing Shyamalan’s Apple TV+ show “Servant” was a “brazen copy” of “The Truth About Emanuel.”

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“Servant” and “The Truth About Emanuel” both tell the story of a mother who, grieving the death of her baby, forms an attachment to a realistic doll. In both, a teenage nanny goes along with the mother and cares for the doll as if it were alive.

U.S. District Judge John Walter in Los Angeles dismissed the case later that year, finding the works’ similarities “pale in comparison” to differences in their plots, themes, dialogue and other features.

Walter also awarded Apple and Shyamalan over $160,000 in attorneys’ fees after finding Gregorini’s claims were unreasonable.

But a three-judge 9th Circuit panel reinstated Gregorini’s case on Tuesday, finding reasonable minds could disagree on whether the works are similar enough to prove copyright infringement. The panel also said expert testimony would be helpful in comparing the show and the movie.

The decision also reversed Apple and Shyamalan’s attorneys’ fees award.

Gregorini’s attorney Ruthanne Deutsch of Deutsch Hunt said Wednesday that she and her client were “absolutely delighted” with the ruling.

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment; neither did an attorney for Apple and Shyamalan.

The cases are Gregorini v. Apple Inc, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-55664 and 20-55846.

For Gregorini: Ruthanne Deutsch of Deutsch Hunt, David Erikson of Erikson Law Group

For Apple: Nicolas Jampol of Davis Wright Tremaine

Read more:

Director says in lawsuit Apple, Shyamalan stole her movie

Apple and M. Night Shyamalan urge judge to dismiss ‘Servant’ copyright case

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Apple and M. Night Shyamalan must face director’s lawsuit in latest court twist

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