Bridgerton has given Netflix one of its biggest original hits, and the IP has been an inspiration to many fans around the world. However, it seems that one pair has taken things too far with their Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, which has now seen the streaming giant suing Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear for copyright infringement. In what started as a bit of fan-fiction in song form, the pair went viral on Tiktok for their songs and videos based on the Netflix hit, and subsequently have gone on to release the creation as an album, which was nominated for a Grammy, hit #1 in the pop charts and #5 in the worldwide album chart. Now it seems that a live performance of the album has pushed Netflix too far.
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While it could have been argued that their work being “inspired” by Bridgerton was always on thin ice when they released the album using the name of the show, all be it with the clear “unofficial” disclaimer, it seems that the lawsuit has come about when the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. hosted “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Live Album in Concert”, an event that saw tickets selling for just under $150 each. While Netflix have said they have previously raised concerns with the two women, it seems that taking the show to the live stage has tipped the balance. As reported by Variety, a statement by Netflix said:
“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.”
Bridgerton’s Series Creator Supports The Netflix Lawsuit
While social media is a huge outlet for fans to share their own IP-inspired projects, including a number of “fan-films” based around Star Wars and Marvel characters, there is a moment when these projects overstep the mark and their creators face the wrath of some very big companies. That usually comes once these movies start making money for their creators based on a franchise name alone. Considering Barlow and Bear were able to release their album of songs with Bridgerton named in the title, it is most surprising that Netflix have not taken action sooner. One person who is in support of the lawsuit brought by Netflix is Bridgeton creator Shonda Rhimes, who wrote:
“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.'”
With Bridgerton having been renewed for a third season on Netflix, and the streamer making it clear that there is a lot more Bridgerton content to come, it is not surprising that they want to shut down this project before it is allowed to go even further. From their statement, it sounds like they have already tried to do this quietly, but have now had to go down a legal route to protect one of their biggest IPs.