Apple & M. Night Shyamalan Hit With Copyright Suit Over ‘Servant’ Ripping Off Sundance Film

The streaming arm of the tech giant has hit the big time with its first major Hollywood lawsuit over the thriller 'Servant' series Apple

Just over two months since its debut, AppleTV+ finally hit the Hollywood big time today with its first high-profile lawsuit.

Along with director M. Night Shyamalan, the streaming arm of the Tim Cook-run tech behemoth is facing claims that its Tony Basgallop created Servant series lifts a little too liberally from Francesca Gregorini’s 2013 film The Truth About Emanuel.

Servant is a wholesale copy of Plaintiff Francesca Gregorini’s 2013 feature film The Truth About Emanuel,” declares a copyright infringement and injunction seeking lawsuit filed today in federal court in California (read it here).

“As demonstrated by the long list of key parallels catalogued in Section III(C) of this Complaint, the misappropriation is not a mere borrowed premise, idea or story,” the jury seeking and graphically detailed complaint adds of the film that opened at the Sundance Film Festival seven years ago. “Mr. Shyamalan has gone so far as to appropriate not just the plot of Emanuel—but also its use of cinematic language, creating a substantially similar feeling, mood, and theme.”

Seeking to shut the already renewed Servant down, the lawsuit wants widespread but unspecified damages as well. Interestingly, amidst the claims that “both works use magical realism to create an otherworldly mood” and more detailed allegations, one difference between Servant and Emanuel that the paperwork notes is the shift in gender. Emanuel was made by women and Servant is made by men, and that brings an “an added layer of sexism” to the AppleTV+ series.

Servant’s similarities to Emanuel are so pervasive, and so grounded in my client’s highly creative and uniquely personal artistic choices, that the idea they might have resulted from coincidence is preposterous,” noted Gregorini’s lead lawyer David Erikson in a separate statement to Deadline on Wednesday. “Watching the two works leaves no doubt that my client’s copyrighted expression was cavalierly misappropriated—easily meeting the standard for copyright infringement.”

As more new series debuts loom for later this week on the November 1 launched service, Apple declined to comment on the Servant legal action when contacted by Deadline today. The psychological horror show premiered on November 28, 2019.

Shyamalan and Basgallop EP Servant with Ashwin Rajan, Jason Blumenthal, Todd Black and Steve Tisch. Taylor Latham and Patrick Markey serve as co-executive producers.

In this lawsuit, plaintiff Gregorini is represented by the Erikson Law Group.

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