Apple Moves to Dismiss Copyright Suit Against AppleTV+ Show

Defendant Apple, joined by production studios and staff, has filed a motion to dismiss a copyright lawsuit filed by Francesca Gregorini, a film director who alleged that the AppleTV+ series Servant infringed upon her copyright in her film The Truth About Emmanuel. The defendants argued that Servant is not “substantially similar” to Gregorini’s film.

The motion argued that to assess the similarity of two works, judges must not consider content or elements which are not protected by copyright. The defendants added, “Accordingly, courts filter out so-called scenes a faire, or elements that flow naturally from a basic premise.” After “filtering out” unprotected elements, the defendants argue that a judge must compare “specific expressive elements” of the two works.

“Importantly, courts repeatedly find that lists of ‘random similarities scattered throughout the works’ are insufficient to satisfy the extrinsic test because they are ‘inherently subjective and unreliable.’”

The motion then analyzed the similarities presented in the original complaint. The defendants argued that elements in both works, such as “featuring a new mother, including having help with the baby,” ” a grieving mother using a reborn doll to cope with losing a child,” and “the concept of parents treating a doll as their child” all are unprotectable as the aforementioned scenes a faire. They added that visual similarities between the works are “ubiquitous elements from film and television” and are thus also unprotectable.

Finally, the defendants stated that plot similarities are “mischaracterizations of one or both of the works at issue.” The motion went on to explain that the works are dissimilar in theme, structure, mood, pacing, setting, and characterization, adding that “As Plaintiff alleges, Emmanuel is an “emotional story about motherhood and daughterhood…Servant”s primary theme is very different and much darker.” While the characters find “peace” in Gregorini’s work, they do not in Servant, the motion purported.

“Once unprotectable elements are disregarded, the works’ plot, sequence of events, themes, characters, setting, mood, pace, and dialogue are different, and Plaintiff’s cherry-picking of unprotectable elements or generic details does not enable her to survive dismissal.”

The defendants are represented by Davis Wright Tremaine. Gregorini is represented by Erikson Law Group.