'Abbott Elementary' makers defeat NYC teacher's copyright lawsuit

US District Judge Failla said Christine Davis could not prove that ‘Abbott Elementary’ was similar enough to her proposed television show ‘This School Year’

Blake BrittainReuters
Published : 20 March 2024, 04:53 AM
Updated : 20 March 2024, 04:53 AM

The makers of the hit American Broadcasting Co comedy "Abbott Elementary" convinced a New York federal court on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit from a writer who accused them of copying her script.

US District Judge Katherine Failla said Christine Davis could not prove that "Abbott Elementary" was similar enough to her proposed television show "This School Year" to show that Disney's ABC infringed her copyright.

Davis, her attorney, and representatives for ABC did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling.

Davis, a New York-based actor, writer and schoolteacher, sued ABC, Emmy award-winning "Abbott Elementary" creator Quinta Brunson and others in 2022, calling the show a "veritable knock-off" of "This School Year." Davis said she pitched her show to producers with connections to ABC and "Abbott Elementary" streamer Hulu, who allegedly forwarded her work to the companies without permission.

Davis argued that "Abbott Elementary," a workplace mockumentary about an underfunded public school in Philadelphia, copied several elements of her planned mockumentary about her experience teaching in New York City public schools.

Failla dismissed the case on Tuesday after determining that "This School Year" and "Abbott Elementary" are not substantially similar.

"While both works depict the lives of idealistic teachers working in an inner-city public school," Failla said, "differences in plot and structure far outweigh this general likeness."

Failla also noted distinctions in each show's tone, characters and "total concept and feel" in finding that Davis could not sustain her copyright case.

"The two works use qualitatively different plots, themes, and characters to cast different perspectives on the experiences of teachers in under-resourced, inner-city public-school settings," Failla said.