Earlier this week, a musical inspired by Netflix’s hit romance series Bridgerton was called off following the streaming platform’s threat to file a lawsuit for copyright issues.
The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, which began as a TikTok series, performed to an audience in the US in July and was sold out. The musical’s creators, Barlow and Bear, had looked forward to taking the concert to the Royal Albert Hall in London next month.
However, it was scrapped after legal action from Netflix.
The Bridgerton Journey
Bridgerton kicked off as a romance novel by Julia Quinn, following the life of a widow Viscountess and her eight children exploring the high society in Regency England. And then, it was adapted by Shondaland for Netflix.
Two very dedicated avid viewers of the show, Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, started creating their social media content inspired by the series, posting it under the handle Barlow and Bear.
Their short clips contained footage of them playing the original songs and inviting followers to add their own verses. Barlow would sing the lead vocals, while Bear would be in charge of the instruments and backing vocals.
The songs were witty and catchy, making people watch their content irresistibly. In January 2021, their popularity became even more widespread.
Not even a month ahead of Bridgerton’s release, Barlow said in an interview with BBC Radio’s 4’s Today, “I was just so inspired on a different level of someone else’s creativity.”
She added, “I thought, immediately, ‘Well, this could be something that I could see on stage, so I put it on TikTok just like I do [with] my pop songs that I write, and immediately people started getting invested and really wanted to hear more.”
Success of Barlow and Bear
A few songs became very popular that the duo started recording full versions, ultimately dropping an album last September.
Their handle quickly grew, and Barlow and Bear planned to bring their work into the musical theaters. The songs they wrote received good feedback from a few cast member and Quinn herself.
“I know all about the musical, and that is just blowing my mind… I’ll be sort of humming in the shower and realize I’ve been humming one of the songs,” Quinn said.
The two downplay their quick rise to fame.
“We’re just two girls, like, having fun writing music in our bedroom,” Barlow said in an interview with NPR.
But although it was the case at the start, Barlow and Bear were rapidly reaching another phase of success. In April, they bagged a Grammy for best musical theatre album.
In the beginning, Netflix did not show interest in its craft – mainly due to its light-hearted social media trend. After all, it is a wrong PR move for giants to stand in the way of reasonably harmless user-generated content.
Last September, Barlow said in an interview: “Netflix was very, very supportive.”
But as their traction grew, so did the worries of the series’ producers. They did not authorize the musical, so it became a problem for Netflix and Shondaland.
And when Barlow and Bear tried to monetize their success by making their own musical in Washington and selling tickets priced at $149, Netflix interfered.
The streaming giant took legal action in the US in July, alleging Barlow and Bear of “blatant infringement of intellectual property rights” via the musical, which quotes from the show and gets materials from it.
“Netflix supports fan-generated content, but Barlow and Bear have taken this many steps further, seeking to create multiple revenue for themselves without formal permission to utilize the Bridgerton IP [intellectual property],” Netflix wrote last month.
“We’ve tried hard to work with Barlow and Bear, and they have refused to co-operate. The creators, cast, writers, and crew have poured their hearts and souls into Bridgerton, and we’re taking action to protect their rights.”
It further said: “What started as a fun celebration by Barlow and Bear on social media has turned into the blatant taking of intellectual property solely for Barlow and Bear’s financial benefit.”