Now this lawsuit is set to be the talk of the ton.
Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, creators of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” have been sued by Netflix for copyright and trademark infringement. The move comes just days after the pair hosted a live performance of the Grammy award-winning musical album at The Kennedy Center in New York City on July 26.
“Defendants Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear and their companies (“Barlow &Bear”) have taken valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series “Bridgerton” to build an international brand for themselves,” the lawsuit claims. “Netflix owns the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals, or any other derivative works based on Bridgerton. Barlow &Bear cannot take that right–made valuable by others’ hard work–for themselves, without permission. Yet that is exactly what they have done.”
Barlow and Bear’s musical adaptation of the hit series went viral on TikTok last year. It was later released as an album in September 2021 and took home the award for Best Musical Theater Album at the 2022 Grammys.
In its lawsuit, Netflix alleges that the duo’s songs copy “liberally and nearly identically from “Bridgerton” across a number of original elements of expression” including “plot, pace, sequence of events, mood, setting, and themes.”
In their complaint, Netflix claimed that they repeatedly told the pair that “such works were not authorized,” adding, “At each step of the way, Barlow &Bear’s representatives repeatedly assured Netflix that they understood Netflix’s position and led Netflix to believe that Netflix would be consulted before Barlow &Bear took steps beyond streaming their album online in audio-only format.”
The streaming service claimed that they first learned about Barlow and Bear’s NYC performance from their representatives this past June, per court documents. The pair are also scheduled to perform the show at the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 20.
“Barlow &Bear’s ‘The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical’ is not authorized by Netflix, Shondaland, or Julia Quinn,” the lawsuit read. “And Netflix has never given Barlow &Bear permission to create or perform ‘The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical’ live, let alone at the Kennedy Center or Royal Albert Hall, or to create new derivative works based on the Bridgerton intellectual property.”
Netflix also allegedly told the pair’s representative that they did not want Barlow and Bear to engage in “any live performances” or “other derivative works that might compete with Netflix’s own planned events” including its global theatrical event The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience.
Instead, the court documents noted that “The Kennedy Center performance went forward over Netflix’s objections on July 26, 2022, in front of a sold-out audience.”
The company also claimed that the pair allegedly sold unofficial merchandise at the event and, throughout the evening, “misrepresented to the audience that they were using Netflix’s BRIDGERTON trademark ‘with Permission,'” per the complaint.
As a result, Netflix alleged that Bear and Barlow’s actions will lead to “irreparable consumer confusion about whether their performances and merchandise are in fact authorized.” The streaming service is seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, legal costs, damages and further relief.
E! News has reached out to the musical’s creators for comment and has not heard back.
“Bridgerton”‘s executive producer Shonda Rhimes and novelist Julia Quinn have also spoken out about the lawsuit.
“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,” Rhimes told Deadline. “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.”
Julia explained that she was initially “flattered and delighted” by Barlow and Bear’s work.
“There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain,” Julia told the outlet. “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.”
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