Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear are being sued by Netflix for hosting ‘for-profit’ performances of their Grammy winner Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.
In a lawsuit filed in DC District Court on Friday, the streamer alleges that the duo and their company Barlow & Bear profited from “valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series.” Bridgertonthrough a July 26 staged performance of the musical at the Kennedy Center and a future performance scheduled for London’s Royal Albert Hall, as well as “their own line of Bridgerton– themed merchandise.
“Bridgerton reflects the creative work and hard-earned success of hundreds of artists and Netflix employees,” the suit reads. “Netflix has the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals or any derivative works based on Bridgerton. Barlow & Bear cannot take this right – made valuable by the hard work of others – for themselves, without permission. Yet that is exactly what they did.
The lawsuit argues the songwriting duo did so despite repeated conversations with Netflix that their works were “unauthorized.” Netflix calls the album and performances by Barlow and Bear a “gross violation of intellectual property rights” as part of an effort “to build an international brand.”
“At each stage of the process, Barlow & Bear representatives repeatedly assured Netflix that they understood Netflix’s position and led Netflix to believe that Netflix would be consulted before Barlow & Bear took any further action. the online distribution of their album in audio format only. Barlow & Bear’s agent says they have no interest in interfering with Netflix’s rights or being known only as ‘Bridgerton girls.’
“The depictions of Barlow & Bear were wrong,” he continues. “Despite their assurances to the contrary, Barlow & Bear now claim carte blanche permission to profit from Netflix’s protected intellectual property in any way they see fit. »
In the lawsuit, Netflix acknowledges that Bear and Barlow were among “countless other fans inspired by the series” who began posting musical compositions based on the show’s characters, dialogue and plot on streaming platforms. social media like TikTok after the release of its first season in December. 2020. But, the streamer says, their live show featured content that was pulled “verbatim” from the series and performed for a “sold out audience at the Kennedy Center” where tickets ranged up to $149 on top of the VIP packages.
“The show included more than a dozen songs that verbatim copied dialogue, character traits and expression, and other elements of Bridgerton the series. It included dramatic depictions of Bridgerton characters of Broadway actors, moving through the interpretation of the songs that make up the “musical”, “says the costume. “Throughout the performance, Barlow & Bear misrepresented the audience that they were using Netflix’s BRIDGERTON trademark ‘with permission,’ while Netflix strenuously objected.”
In response to the lawsuit, Netflix, producer Shonda Rhimes and Bridgerton Author Julia Quinn has all released statements, with a spokesperson for the streamer stating that it “supports fan-generated content, but Barlow & Bear have taken many additional steps, seeking to create multiple streams of income for themselves without formal permission to use the Bridgerton IP. »
The statement goes on to reiterate the language used in the dossier. “We tried very hard to work with Barlow & Bear, and they refused to cooperate. The creators, cast, writers and crew poured their hearts and souls into Bridgertonand we take steps to protect their rights.
Rhimes also celebrated the outpouring of fan content that followed the show’s December 2020 debut, but argues that Barlow and Bear have turned the “celebration” into a “blatant grab” for intellectual property.
“There is so much joy in watching the public fall in love with Bridgerton and watch the creative ways they express their fandom,” Rhimes says in his statement. “What started as a fun celebration by Barlow & Bear on social media turned into a blatant intellectual property grab solely for the financial benefit of Barlow & Bear. This property was created by Julia Quinn and saw the light of day onscreen through the hard work of countless people. Just as Barlow & Bear would not allow others to appropriate their intellectual property for profit, Netflix cannot sit idly by and allow Barlow & Bear to Bear to do the same with Bridgerton.”
Quinn, in her own statement, calls the duo “extremely talented”, but says there is “a difference” between a TikTok line-up and “playing for commercial purposes”.
“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,” Quinn’s post read. “There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and playing for commercial purposes. I hope Barlow & Bear, who share my position as independent creative professionals, will understand the need to protect the property intellectual input from other professionals, including the characters and stories I created in the Bridgerton novels more than twenty years ago.
In April, the duo won the 2022 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and late last year performed “Ocean Away”, a song from their musical album based on Bridgerton alongside Darren Criss at the Kennedy Center 50th Anniversary Concert. Their music gained popularity in 2021, after posting a collection of performances and music video compositions on TikTok, including an official Netflix Twitter account. tweeted in January 2021.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to representatives for Bear and Barlow for comment.