In December 2020, Netflix premiered the romantic drama series “Bridgerton,” which takes place in a period-appropriate but regal environment. Due to its stunning costumes worn by both men and women, its representation of LGBTQ people and different races, as well as its explicit and shocking scenes, the show attracted millions of viewers. Bridgerton was watched in almost 83 million households worldwide, according to a Netflix estimate.
Fans were so taken with the show that one fan created a musical called “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” which had to be canceled after the creators of the official production accused the show of intellectual theft. The unlicensed Royal Albert Hall show in London was canceled. Meanwhile, it recently sold out at the Kennedy Center. Netflix has sued the creators of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” a TikTok-born musical that the company has long tolerated.
“There is so much joy in seeing audiences fall in love with Bridgerton. ‘But what started as a fun celebration by [fans] Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into the blatant taking of intellectual property,” said the producer and creator of the series, Shondra Rhimes.
Other legal battles
The Bridgerton case is just one of several involving creators’ and production creatives’ intellectual ownership of works of art.
In order to attract fans, content creators can now be innovative with their work and draw inspiration from series or films, thanks to social media. For instance, a fan-created “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” which was first posted on TikTok. When it finally took off, the fan decided to write a musical and submit it to the studios.
An unofficial performance of “Hamilton,” which equated homosexuality to drug addiction, was held in the Door McAllen church in Texas earlier this year. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical’s composer, responded by tweeting, “Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work.”
As he prepares to argue his case before the US Supreme Court, Andy Warhol is now facing criticism for what is being called misappropriations of a photographer’s images.
The lines separating viewers, interpreters, and creators have become hazier as a result of recent fan interpretation surges. The court challenges will be centered on concerns with fair use, intellectual property ownership, and trademark infringement. Creators and producers are hoping that whatever comes out of the trials will put a stop to fans’ misguided interpretations of their works.
The rise of the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical
The “Bridgerton” series was popular on TikTok. It inspired fans Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear to create musical content about the series. The two uploaded their videos to TikTok, where they quickly gained traction and attracted the attention of millions of viewers.
The women received supportive comments and recommendations from their followers on TikTok. Barlow and Bear were able to attract followers from all around the world because of social media’s eventual increase in popularity. The gimmick was then praised by Netflix, who claimed it was beneficial for their publicity. The dominant streaming service claimed to have been astounded by the women’s performance.
The songs that Barlow and Bear eventually produced—which were inspired by dialogue from Bridgerton—became an album and were nominated for a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.
What Netflix had to say
Jane Quinn, the author of the book series on which the “Bridgerton” is based, said, “I was flattered and delighted when they began. There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain.”
Meanwhile, Netflix said in a statement, “Netflix offered Barlow & Bear a license that would allow them to proceed with their scheduled live performances at the Kennedy Center and Royal Albert Hall, continue distributing their album, and perform their Bridgerton-inspired songs live as part of larger programs going forward. Barlow & Bear refused.”