Apple & M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Servant’ Not Out Of Legal Horror Yet, Despite Judge’s Dismissal Of Copyright Suit
With twists that you might expect from a M. Night Shyamalan project, the legal scare facing AppleTV+, the director and Servant creator Tony Basgallop may still keep haunting them.
Despite an order today from a federal judge tossing out a copyright suit over the Lauren Ambrose and Tony Kebbell starring series from the Tim Cook-run company’s streamer, the court docket could have a new master sooner rather than later.
“Today’s ruling is disappointing, but not surprising,” said The Truth About Emanuel director Francesca Gregorini on Thursday over the dismissal with prejudice of her January filed lawsuit over the inspiration for the already renewed Servant series.
“The balance of power in the entertainment industry has always favored powerful men and institutions,” Gregorini asserts in what is the third time Shyamalan has been tainted with creative sticky fingers over the years. “Their ultimate goal is to silence anyone whose work they steal and repurpose without credit.”
“My case is an attempt to hold those powerful forces accountable and protect the work of so many talented voices who are not as rich and powerful as M. Night Shyamalan,” the filmmaker adds of her Sundance premiering flick of seven years ago and the Shyamalan EP’d and partially directed AppleTV+ show that launched in November 2019.
“I hoped for a different outcome. I will not allow this to silence me. I intend to appeal this ruling and continue to make my case that Servant and The Truth About Emanuel share similarities that were undoubtedly and knowingly plagiarized.”
Representatives for AppleTV+ today declined to comment on Gregorini’s intention to appeal.
Their silence makes some degree of sense.
Besides the usual corporate reluctance to remark on litigation, Apple had a pretty clear win in Judge John Walter’s order today – and they’d likely want to keep that narrative front and center.
“After filtering out the non-protectable elements, the Court concludes, as a matter of law, that Emanuel and Episodes 1 through 3 of Servant are not substantially similar,” Judge Walter wrote of the alleged ripping off of Gregorini’s 2013 feature film for the AppleTV+ show (READ THE ORDER HERE).
“Though Emanuel and Episodes 1 through 3 of Servant share a basic plot premise, they tell completely different stories,” the U.S. District Court official states in almost TV critic tones. “Servant’s theme is much darker, and the series walks the line between thriller and horror,” the 14-page document proclaims in language both much more thoughtful and blunter than such tricky copyright cases usually get from the bench.
“In sum, the alleged similarities between the works pale in comparison to the differences in the plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events., and the Court concludes that the works at issue are not substantially similar as a matter of law,” Judge Walter concluded of Emanuel and Servant. “For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint is granted,” Judge Walter concluded. “Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint is dismissed without leave to amend and this action is dismissed with prejudice.
With Judge Walter not giving the plaintiff the ability to even amend her initial complaint, challenging the dismissal itself is really the only option Gregorini has to fight on at this point. When that appeal from L.A.’s Erikson Law Group could come is a bit open ended, especially with the Judge telling all parties to meet and file a joint proposed Judgement by June 5. However, with that deadline in mind, expect to see Gregorini’s appeal within the next month or soon afterwards if similar cases are any blue print.
In her original complaint jury trial desiring complaint of earlier this year, Gregorini sought to shut Servant down and be awarded widespread but unspecified damages. In the speeds such appeals move through the federal courts, coronavirus shutdowns or not, by the time the Emanuel director finds herself in a position to make that ask again, if she finds herself able to, Servant’s second season may have already dropped on AppleTV+ – for better or worse.