Netflix has failed in its attempt to dismiss a lawsuit relating to its award-winning series The Queen’s Gambit. 

Female chess grandmaster, Nona Gaprindashvili, sued Netflix last year for false light invasion of privacy and defamation in relation to a statement made about her in the serieswhich follows the career of fictional chess player, Beth Harmon. U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Philips this week denied Netflix’s motion to strike out the claim.

The lawsuit centres around an announcement made during a fictional chess tournament depicted in the series which said: ‘…There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men. ’Gaprindashvili objected to this line on the basis that it is ‘manifestly false’, sexist and belittling.

The streaming giant sought to dismiss the claim on the basis that the show is a fictional work and that the legal action attacks its ‘constitutionally protected free speech rights’.

In her ruling, the Judge held that, ‘At the very least, the line is dismissive of the accomplishments central to Plaintiff’s reputation’.  The court held that whilst the series is based on fiction, the court could not ignore the fact that real people and events are referenced, and that the fact that the series was a fictional work ‘… does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present’.

In addition, the Judge found that the Plaintiff had submitted evidence to ‘support the allegation that a “reasonable” viewer would believe the line to be defamatory’ alongside evidence supporting the allegation of actual malice. The court therefore denied Netflix’s motion to dismiss and strike out the action, which will now proceed.  zoom-in will report on developments.