Image Source: The Wrap
Since the old-fashioned, lavishly designed Regency romance “Bridgerton” made its Netflix debut on Christmas Day 2020, it has proven to be precisely what TV needed during the worldwide COVID lockdown. It was gorgeously costumed, multiracial, and LGBTQ-friendly, featuring sizzling sex and explicit nudity. According to Netflix, 82 million households watched the series in just four months.
A performance of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” a fan-created passion project that was influenced by the play, was postponed last week at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The unauthorized production sold out the Kennedy Center a few days before. Netflix sued the show’s makers to end it after long tolerating the musical that originated on TikTok.
Bring out the horse-drawn carriage and put on your jewels, for Daphne Bridgerton and her dapper Duke of Hastings are going to court.
This legal dispute between creators and creatives over the ownership and interpretation of works of art is simply the most recent in a string of similar ones.
Fans are literally taking liberties as social media becomes more prevalent and pop culture is frequently immersive. For example, earlier this month, a parody of “Hamilton” that compared homosexuality to drug addiction was performed at the Door McAllen church in Texas. The musical’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, tweeted on August 10: “Thank you to everyone who contacted me over this unapproved, illegal production. Lawyers are now working.”
Additionally, the US Supreme Court will hear a case involving the alleged theft of a photographer’s work by artist Andy Warhol this fall.
Complex legal problems, including fair use, trademark infringement, and intellectual property ownership, are at the heart of these cases. Additionally, they are erasing the distinction between the artist’s and the viewer’s roles.
The contested Bridgerton Musical
Bridgerton’s debut and TikTok’s ascent happened at precisely the same time. What if Bridgerton was a musical? singer and fan Abigail Barlow asked on the app in January 2021 before breaking into a song. She performed alongside, piano prodigy, Emily Bear, with whom she had previously toured.
The two American ladies in their 20s started to compose and perform songs that were inspired by the show, frequently quoting dialogue verbatim.
No Barlow and Bear, Lerner & Loewe provided a straightforward yet endearing score: “I’d visit Japan if I were a man. But, instead, I spent my summers at Cannes playing in the sand.”
Because the duo allowed comments, participation, and suggestions on TikTok, it was a big success with fans. In addition, it had the impression of being an original work of crowdsourced art.
The first fan uproar was, if anything, joyful to Netflix, and it was undoubtedly good advertising. After a few weeks, Netflix stated that it was “absolutely blown away” by the Bridgerton musical that was being performed on TikTok and gave Barlow “a standing ovation.” Fifteen songs were subsequently added to the project. There was a disc released.
That record received a slightly improbable nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album in November 2021. Even more improbable, it defeated nominees Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Burt Bacharach, who were far more experienced (“Wicked”). A benefit performance was arranged.
Barlow & Bear played their formerly clandestine “Unofficial” event at the Kennedy Center in late July in late July with The National Symphony orchestra. The most expensive ticket was for a meet-and-greet with Barlow and Bear, which cost $149.
Invoking copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, and trademark infringement, Netflix then filed a complaint. Additionally, it claimed “fake origin,” implying that Netflix had approved the production when it had not.
Jane Quinn, who wrote the book series that details the wacky Bridgerton siblings’ love life and is the inspiration for the Netflix series, added her remark and expressed her fascination.
Netflix has filed a complaint, “Netflix presented Barlow & Bear with a license that would enable them to carry out their scheduled live performances at the Kennedy Center and Royal Albert Hall, carry on with the distribution of their album, and go forward with live performances of their songs that Bridgerton inspired as part of larger programs. Instead, Bear & Barlow declined.”
Netflix’s legal counsel did not respond to requests for comment via email. Neither did the CAA, or Creative Artist Agency, representatives for Barlow and Bear.
In the meantime, season three’s filming has recently begun in Bath and London, UK. After that, the show jumps to book four of the series, which tells the story of Penelope Featherington and her lifelong friend, who has since become her crush, Colin Bridgerton.