Songwriting duo Abigail Barlow and Emily bear They were the brains behind the popular adaptation of the hit TV series. They held a live concert for “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Album Live in Concert” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, selling out the venue.
Netflix originally praised the concept when it first came out as a free online appreciation. But when that expanded into a profitable business, things got sticky.
The lawsuit states that “defendants Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear and their companies (“Barlow & Bear”) have acquired valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series Bridgerton to build an international brand for themselves. 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 other derivative works based on Bridgerton.Barlow & Bear cannot take this right—which has become valuable through the hard work of others—for themselves, without permission. So, that’s exactly what they did.”
Netflix claims it lodged a “repeated objection” to the theatrical show, which sold tickets worth up to $149 each. VIP packages were more expensive.
The live show included more than a dozen songs that allegedly copied literal dialogue, character traits, expressions, and other elements of Bridgeton Series.
The lawsuit also states, “Throughout the performance, Barlow & Bear offended the audience that they were using Netflix’s BRIDGERTON trademark ‘with permission’.”
The lawsuit also notes that in addition to the Grammy-winning album, the couple are planning a tour, with a date at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The suit alleges that there were also alleged plans for a line of merchandise.
Netflix has its own “Bridgerton Experience,” a six-city event in direct competition. “Netflix has the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals, or other derivative works based on Bridgeton.“
Barlow & Bear has not commented on the lawsuit yet. Their version of the musical is developed on social media in real time, with Barlow vocals, harmony, production, and additional vocals by Bear. It set the record number 1 on the US pop charts on iTunes, with it aired more than 45 million times. It won a Grammy Award for Best Theatrical Musical Album.
Netflix, Shonda Rhimes, and “Bridgerton” series author Julia Quinn have also released statements.
Netflix supports fan-generated content, but Barlow & Bear has taken this many steps forward, seeking to create multiple revenue streams for themselves without official permission to use Bridgerton’s IP address. We tried very hard to work with Barlow & Bear, and they refused to cooperate. Creators, actors, writers, and crew have poured their hearts and souls into Bridgerton, and we are taking action to protect their rights.” — Netflix spokesperson
Shonda Rhimes statement:
“There is a lot of joy in seeing fans fall in love with Bridgerton and watching the creative ways in which they express their fan base. What started as a fun celebration by Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into a blatant takeover of intellectual property solely for the financial benefit of Barlow & Bear Bear.This property was created by Julia Quinn and brought to screen through the hard work of countless individuals.Just as Barlow & Bear would not allow others to allocate their IP address for profit, Netflix cannot stand idly by and allow Barlow & Bear to do the same with Bridgerton.” -Shonda Rhimes
Julia Quinn statement:
“Abigail Barlow and Emily Beer are very talented, and I was flattered and happy when they started composing Bridgeton songs and sharing them with other fans on TikTok. However, there is a difference between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain. I hope Barlow and Bear, who share a similar profile, realize my position as independent creative professionals, the need to protect the intellectual property of other professionals, including the characters and stories I created in Bridgerton’s novels over twenty years ago.” Julia Quinn
Legal papers can be found here.