Netflix sues ‘unofficial Bridgerton Musical’ creators days after sold-out NYC live show

Days after musicians Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear performed their Grammy-winning Unofficial Bridgerton Musical to a sold-out crowd at the Kennedy Center, Netflix is ​​suing them for “blatant infringement” of the company’s rights to the popular period drama.

In a complaint filed Friday (July 29) in DC federal court, Netflix accused the duo of piggybacking on “the creative work and hard-earned success” of hundreds of artists and employees behind Bridgerton – to use the company’s copyrights and trademarks without permission to build a “brand for themselves.”

“Netflix owns the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals or other derivative works based on Bridgerton“, the company wrote. “Barlow & Bear cannot take that right – made valuable by the hard work of others – for itself without permission. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.”

Barlow & Bear launched Unofficial Bridgerton Musical on TikTok, eventually garnering millions of likes. The viral songs were eventually released as an album that won Best Musical Theater Album at Grammy Awards 2022 in April.

But according to Netflix’s lawsuit, none of that was sanctioned by the studio that actually created the soapy historical romance series, which debuted in 2020 and has become one of the streamer’s biggest successes in the past few years.

“When asked directly, Netflix repeatedly told Barlow & Bear that such works were not authorized,” the company wrote. “Despite their assurances to the contrary, Barlow & Bear is now demanding carte blanche permission to take advantage of Netflix’s protected intellectual property in any way they see fit.”

The tipping point appears to have been this week’s sold-out performance at the Kennedy Center, which took place despite “Netflix’s repeated objections” and featured tickets costing up to $149. Netflix says the two are also planning a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London and other performances around the world.

“The live show featured over a dozen songs that copied verbatim dialogue, character traits and expressions, and other elements Bridgerton“, Netflix wrote. “Throughout the performance, Barlow & Bear misrepresented to the audience that they were using Netflix Bridgerton trademark ‘with permission’, while Netflix strongly objected.”

Fan fiction is a legal gray area, and courts have split on whether such projects are kosher under intellectual property laws. Non-commercial projects and parodies are often considered a legal “fair use” of the underlying material, but lucrative adaptations may be considered a “derivative work” that required a license.

In this week’s lawsuit, Netflix says Unofficial Bridgerton Musical was clearly the latter: “Barlow & Bear’s behavior began on social media, but stretches ‘fan fiction’ way past the breaking point. It is a blatant violation of intellectual property rights. Copyright and trademark laws do not allow Barlow & Bear to appropriate the creative work and goodwill of others for their own benefit.”

Barlow & Bear did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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