The Grammy-winning team behind an unofficial Bridgerton the musical is being sued by Netflix in Washington, DC US District Court for infringement.
Songwriter duo Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear were the minds behind the popular adaptation of the hit TV series. They held 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 initially welcomed the concept when it debuted as a free online tribute. But when it turned into a profitable business, things got tricky.
“Defendants Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear and their companies (“Barlow & Bear”) took valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series Bridgerton to create an international brand for themselves,” the lawsuit said. “Bridgerton reflects the creative work and hard-earned success of hundreds of artists and Netflix employees. Netflix owns the exclusive right to create songs, musicals, or any other derivative works based on Bridgerton. Barlow & Bear cannot appropriate this right, made valuable by the hard work of others, without permission. Yet that is exactly what they did.
Netflix says it made “repeated objections” to the stage show, which sold tickets for up to $149 each. VIP packages were even more expensive.
The live broadcast included more than a dozen songs that would have verbatim copied dialogue, character traits and expression, and other elements from Bridgerton the series.
“Throughout the performance, Barlow & Bear misrepresented the audience that they were using Netflix’s BRIDGERTON trademark ‘with permission,'” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also notes that in addition to the Grammy-winning album, the pair plan to tour, with an upcoming date at London’s Royal Albert Hall. There are also reportedly plans for a range of merchandise, according to the lawsuit.
Netflix has its own “Bridgerton Experience”, an event in six cities in direct competition. “Netflix has the exclusive right to create any songs, musicals, or other derivative works of Bridgerton based on Bridgerton.“
Barlow & Bear have yet to comment on the lawsuit. 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 reached No. 1 on the US iTunes Pop Charts, streamed over 45 million times. It won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.
Netflix, Shonda Rhimes and “Bridgerton” novel series author Julia Quinn also released statements.
“Netflix supports fan-generated content, but Barlow & Bear have gone further, seeking to create multiple revenue streams for themselves without formal permission to use the Bridgerton IP. We have endeavored to work with Barlow & Bear, and they refused to cooperate. The creators, cast, writers and crew gave heart and soul to Bridgerton, and we are taking action to protect their rights. – a Netflix spokesperson
Statement from Shonda Rhimes:
“There is so much joy in watching audiences fall in love with Bridgerton and watching the creative ways in which they express their fandom. What started as a fun celebration by Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into a blatant intellectual property grab 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 people. Just as Barlow & Bear wouldn’t allow others to take over their IP for profit, Netflix can’t sit back and allow Barlow & Bear to do the same with Bridgerton. -Shonda Rhimes
Statement from Julia Quinn:
“Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear are extremely talented, and I was flattered and thrilled when they started composing Bridgerton songs and sharing them with other fans on TikTok. There is, however, a difference between composing on TikTok and save and play for commercial purposes. I hope that Barlow & Bear, who share my position as independent creative professionals, will understand the need to protect the intellectual property of other professionals, including the characters and stories that I created in Bridgerton’s novels over twenty years ago.-Julia Quinn
Legal documents can be found here.