‘Abbott Elementary’ Creator and ABC Sued Over Allegations of Copyright Infringement

Last week, Abbott Elementary celebrated seven Emmy nominations for its freshman season. The celebration was relatively short-lived, though. The series was slapped with a lawsuit after the Emmy nominations were announced. A copyright infringement lawsuit named both series creator, Quinta Brunson, and ABC as defendants.

An aspiring actor and writer is suing Quinta Brunson and ABC over ‘Abbott Elementary’ 

An aspiring writer and actor who claims Abbott Elementary is a stolen idea is suing Quinta Brunson and ABC. The aspiring writer and actor Christine Davis insists that she developed a series with the same premise as Abbott Elementary years before. In court documents, Davis claims she registered the script with the United States Copyright Office in 2020, months before Abbott Elementary began filming. 

'Abbott Elementary': Quinta Brunson gives a speech in class, and she's already writing season 2
Quinta Brunson | ABC/Gilles Mingasson

Radar has obtained the court documents, which accuse Brunson and ABC of copyright infringement. In the lawsuit, Davis claims that Abbott Elementary is a direct rip-off of a series she began developing in 2018. 

Aspiring writer, Christine Davis, claims the series is a rip-off of her own show idea 

Davis’ lawsuit is lengthy, but it all boils down to the copyright the aspiring writer filed in the months before Abbott Elementary began filming. Davis claims that Brunson and ABC only developed the series after a production company took her idea for a school-based mockumentary series to ABC and Hulu. 

According to court documents, Davis alleges she met with a production company regarding the series in 2020. The company allegedly attempted to sell the idea to networks. Neither Hulu nor ABC offered Davis a production deal. In Davis’ script, a New York City principal hires a documentary film crew to document life in the school. The main focus of the series is a teacher hoping to earn tenure. In Abbott Elementary, Brunson portrays Janine Teagues. 

The lawsuit asks that ABC and Brunson pay Davis for the allegedly stolen content. The lawsuit requests that ABC and Brunson hand over all profits made from the series. ABC renewed Abbott Elementary for a second season in March 2022. 

How did Quinta Brunson develop ‘Abbott Elementary’? 

Brunson, a Buzzfeed alum, created the series and also stars in it. Brunson has been open about her inspiration for the series. Recently, she sat down with Vogue and discussed exactly what inspired her to develop Abbott Elementary

Abbott elementary staff sits in the library, but Quinta Brunson wasn't thinking about diversity
L-R: Lisa Anne Walter, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James, Chris Perfetti, William Stanford Davis, Quinta Brunson, and Tyler James Williams | ABC/Christopher Willard

Brunson said that she took much of her inspiration from her mother. Brunson’s mother has spent decades working as a kindergarten teacher in Philadelphia. Brunson saw a gap in the market. She told Vogue that many shows set in a school are told from the perspective of the student rather than the teacher. She said, “I wanted to create more fleshed-out archetypes of what teachers do that were very based in reality, so I really saw an opportunity to create something that I felt was missing.” With its mockumentary style, Abbott Elementary touches on what teachers deal with in the classroom and in life. 

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