Following a lawsuit filed by Netflix against Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear for their Grammy-winning The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, the work's creators have weighed in with official statements, including series Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes and Julia Quinn, author of the books from which the Netflix series is adapted.
"There is so much joy in seeing audiences fall in love with Bridgerton and watching the creative ways they express their fandom," says Rhimes. "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. This property was created by Julia Quinn and brought to life on screen through the hard work of countless individuals. Just as Barlow & Bear would not allow others to appropriate their IP for profit, Netflix cannot stand by and allow Barlow & Bear to do the same with Bridgerton."
"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," adds Quinn. "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 20 years ago."
The legal action centers around Barlow and Bear's The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, based on the Netflix series and originally designed as a social media stunt. The viral success on TikTok ultimately earned more than 36 million likes and spawned a 15-track album that won the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album and two concert presentations—at London's Royal Albert Hall in September and Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center last week.
The streamer had reportedly sanctioned the album but not the live, for-profit concerts. Netflix also alleges that the suit follows an attempt to officially license the story and characters to Barlow and Bear that was rejected by the writing team before going through with both concerts.
"Netflix supports fan-generated content, but Barlow & Bear have taken this many steps further, seeking to create multiple revenue streams for themselves without formal permission to utilize the Bridgerton IP," says the streamer in its own statement. "We’ve tried hard to work with Barlow & Bear, and they have refused to cooperate. The creators, cast, writers, and crew have poured their hearts and souls into Bridgerton, and we’re taking action to protect their rights."