According to Deadline, Netflix is suing Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, the creators of The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, for copyright infringement. Just a few days after Barlow and Bear performed a live, sold-out event in support of their record inspired by Bridgerton, the streaming giant filed the case in a Washington, DC district court.
Following the 2020 release of Bridgerton, Barlow and Bear started writing songs based on the Netflix original series and marketing the project on TikTok, where it rapidly became well-known. Barlow and Bear quickly had enough as fans kept asking for more material to produce a 15-song album that went on to win a Grammy in April, a first for music that originated on TikTok. In Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center, Barlow and Bear presented a concert on July 26 that included live performances and National Symphony Orchestra music.
Netflix claims that Barlow and Bear’s video “stretches ‘fan fiction’ well beyond its breaking point” and is a “blatant violation of intellectual property rights” in a lawsuit that Deadline was able to access. Netflix alleges that while complimenting Barlow and Bear’s original material, it constantly informed the duo that music with Bridgerton influences “were not approved.”
Netflix asserts that Barlow and Bear “refused” to negotiate a license that would have allowed them to release their album and hold live concerts without incident and that the live Unofficial Bridgerton performance was also not authorized by the business.
In conjunction with the Kennedy Center performance, “Barlow & Bear lacked any permission, authorisation, or authorization to utilize Bridgerton intellectual property,” according to Netflix. And if Barlow & Bear ever asserted that they possessed a license, consent, or authorization—despite Netflix’s unambiguous denials—it has now been categorically withdrawn.
According to Netflix, Barlow and Bear specifically referenced the Bridgerton brand during the program and “attracted Bridgerton enthusiasts who would have otherwise attended the Bridgerton Experience,” a Bridgerton-themed event the company hosts annually in six different locations. Currently, Barlow and Bear are scheduled to perform in the Royal Albert Hall in the UK in September alongside the BBC Orchestra.
Netflix stated in a statement that it “supports fan-generated material, but Barlow & Bear have gone this far beyond, aiming to create additional revenue streams for themselves without legal license to exploit the Bridgerton IP [intellectual property].” “Despite our best efforts, Barlow & Bear have been unwilling to comply. We are acting to uphold the rights of the creators, cast, writers, and crew who put their hearts and souls into Bridgerton.
The creator of the Bridgerton book series, Julia Quinn, claims she was first “flattered and happy” when Barlow and Bear began making TikToks based on the idea. However, there are differences between creating on TikTok and recording and performing for money, according to Quinn. “I believe Barlow & Bear, who share my position as independent creative professionals, appreciate the need to preserve other professionals’ intellectual property, including the characters and ideas I developed in the Bridgerton novels more than 20 years ago.
The Bridgerton Netflix series’ producer, Shonda Rhimes, released a different statement. The obvious theft of intellectual property for Barlow & Bear’s financial gain has evolved from what began as a lighthearted celebration on social media, according to Rhimes. “Netflix cannot stand by and enable Barlow & Bear to take Bridgerton for profit in the same way that Barlow & Bear would not let others to do the same with their IP.”