The Grammy-winning team behind an unofficial Bridgerton musical is being sued by Netflix in Washington, DC US District Court for infringement.
Songwriting duo Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear were the minds behind the popular adaptation of the hit television series. They staged a live concert of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Album Live in Concert” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC earlier this week, selling out the venue.
Netflix originally hailed the concept when it debuted as a free online homage. But when that expanded into a profitable business, things became sticky.
“Defendants Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear and their companies (“Barlow & Bear”) have taken valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series Bridgerton to build an international brand for themselves,” the lawsuit stated. “Bridgerton reflects the creative work and hard-earned success of hundreds of artists and Netflix employees. Netflix owns the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals, or any other derivative works based on Bridgerton. Barlow & Bear cannot take that right—made valuable by others’ hard work—for themselves, without permission. Yet that is exactly what they have done.”
Netflix claims it made “repeated objection” to the stage show, which sold tickets ranging up to $149 each. VIP packages were even more expensive.
The live show featured more than a dozen songs that allegedly copied verbatim dialogue, character traits and expression, and other elements from Bridgerton the series.
“Throughout the performance, Barlow & Bear misrepresented to the audience that they were using Netflix’s BRIDGERTON trademark “with Permission,” the lawsuit further states.
The lawsuit also notes that in addition to the Grammy-winning album, the pair plans to tour, with a date in London’s Royal Albert Hall upcoming. There are also allegedly plans for a line of merchandise, the suit claims.
Netflix has its own “Bridgerton Experience,” a six-city event in direct competition. “Netflix owns the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals, or any other derivative works based on Bridgerton.“
Barlow & Bear have not commented on the lawsuit as yet. Their version of the musical was developed on social media in real time, with lead vocals by Barlow and orchestration, production and additional vocals by Bear. The record hit No. 1 on iTunes US pop charts, streaming more than 45 million times. It won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.
Netflix, Shonda Rhimes, and the “Bridgerton” novel series author Julia Quinn also issued statements.
“Netflix supports fan-generated content, but Barlow & Bear have taken this many steps further, seeking to create multiple revenue streams for themselves without formal permission to utilize the Bridgerton IP. We’ve tried hard to work with Barlow & Bear, and they have refused to cooperate. The creators, cast, writers and crew have poured their hearts and souls into Bridgerton, and we’re taking action to protect their rights.” – a Netflix spokesperson
Shonda Rhimes Statement:
“There is so much joy in seeing audiences fall in love with Bridgerton and watching the creative ways they express their fandom. What started as a fun celebration by Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into the blatant taking of intellectual property solely for Barlow & Bear’s financial benefit. This property was created by Julia Quinn and brought to life on screen through the hard work of countless individuals. Just as Barlow & Bear would not allow others to appropriate their IP for profit, Netflix cannot stand by and allow Barlow & Bear to do the same with Bridgerton.” -Shonda Rhimes
Julia Quinn Statement:
“Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear are wildly talented, and I was flattered and delighted when they began composing Bridgerton songs and sharing with other fans on TikTok. There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain. I would hope that Barlow & Bear, who share my position as independent creative professionals, understand the need to protect other professionals’ intellectual property, including the characters and stories I created in the Bridgerton novels over twenty years ago.” -Julia Quinn
The legal papers can be found here.