Netflix is suing the Grammy-winning artists behind an unofficial “Bridgerton” musical for infringement after the songwriting duo, Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, staged a live concert without the production company’s permission.
The musical ensemble, who go by the name Barlow & Bear, created the popular adaptation, an album titled The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, based on the hit Netflix series. Earlier this week, they staged “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Album Live in Concert” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., selling out the venue.
Originally, Netflix applauded the concept when it debuted as a free online tribute to the popular show on TikTok, before it grew into an actual album. However, when Barlow & Bear further developed their project into a profitable business, Netflix filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C. U.S. District Court.
“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.”
Absolutely blown away by the Bridgerton musical playing out on TikTok
— Netflix (@netflix) January 13, 2021
According to Netflix, they made “repeated objection” to Barlow & Bear’s live stage show that featured over a dozen songs that “allegedly copied verbatim dialogue, character traits and expression, and other elements from ‘Bridgerton’ the series.” Tickets for the event ranged up to $149 each and VIP packages sold for even more.
“Throughout the performance, Barlow & Bear misrepresented to the audience that they were using Netflix’s BRIDGERTON trademark ‘with Permission,'” the lawsuit further stated. The suit also claims that the pair plans to market a merchandise line, plus, take the musical show on tour, which would directly compete with Netflix’s own “Bridgerton Experience,” a six-city event.
Barlow & Bear have yet to comment on the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for Netflix issued a statement that reads: “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.”
Shonda Rhimes, “Bridgerton”‘s executive producer, defended Netflix’s decision to sue the creators behind The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.
“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,” Rhimes said in her official statement. “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.’”
Quinn, who is the author of the “Bridgerton” novel series, also backed Netflix’s decision.
“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,” Quinn explained in a statement. “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.”
The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, released in September 2021, hit No. 1 on iTunes U.S. pop charts and was streamed more than 45 million times. It won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.