The Margin: Netflix sues ‘Unofficial Bridgerton Musical’ after the parody put on a Kennedy Center show with $149 seats


“Bridgerton” lives for scandal — and now a popular TikTok musical parody of the Netflix hit is being sued for copyright and trademark infringement. 

Musicians and songwriters Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear went viral with their “what if ‘Bridgerton’ were a musical” passion project in 2021, posting a series of TikTok videos that reimagined the steamy Netflix

series — which follows the sometimes scandalous courtship rituals of high society in early 1800s England — as a musical. Their tracklist inspired by the Netflix adaptation of Julia Quinn’s bodice-ripper book series, which was produced by “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes, grew into a 15-song album released on Spotify

that even won the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. 

Netflix, Rhimes and Quinn were among the many people loving the musical tribute — at first. The streaming giant tweeted in January 2021 from its official Twitter

account that it was “absolutely blown away” by the “Bridgerton” musical trending on TikTok.

But now Netflix and Co. are changing their tune in light of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” officially migrating offline and into in-person events, calling the fan-made parody a “blatant infringement” of the intellectual property of the Netflix series and the books it is based on. On Friday, Netflix filed a lawsuit against the musical creators and their company, Barlow & Bear, in Washington, D.C. federal court for copyright and trademark infringement. This followed “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical’s” sold-out show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. last Tuesday. Tickets to the live, in-person performance ran up to $149 each, with some VIP packages reportedly running higher. And the duo has another show planned for London’s Royal Albert Hall in September.

“ “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.” ”

— Shonda Rhimes

And author Quinn shared a similar sentiment in a statement with MarketWatch. “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,” she wrote. “There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain. 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 suit comes on the heels of Netflix’s Q2 earnings report, which found the streaming service still shedding subscribers (although not as many as the company had feared), and planning to crack down on password-sharing, and to add an advertising-supported streaming tier to stem losses.

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