Photo Credit: Netflix
It was December 2020 when Netflix released the “Bridgerton” series, a romantic series in an old-fashioned but regal setting. The show garnered millions of viewers because of its visuals featuring women and men in fabulous costumes, its representation of LGBTQ and races, and its explicit, bold scenes, which struck many viewers. According to a report by Netflix, Bridgerton was viewed by over 83 million households across the globe.
Fans loved the series so much that one fan created a musical called “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.” The fan-made production had to be canceled after the official production’s creators called out the show for alleged intellectual theft. The unlicensed productions Royal Albert Hall show in Lon was canceled. Recently, it also sold out at Kennedy Center. Netflix sued the creators of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” – the company has long tolerated the TikTok-born musical.
“There is so much joy in seeing audiences fall in love with Bridgerton. ‘But what started as a fun celebration by [fans] Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into the blatant taking of intellectual property,” said Shondra Rhimes, the producer and creator of the series.
One of the many legal battles
The Bridgerton case is just one of many cases addressing intellectual ownership of the works of art by creators and production creatives.
Social media has made it possible for content creators to become creative with their content and take inspiration from series or movies to gain followers’ attention. For example, “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” originated on TikTok and was made by a fan. It eventually gained traction, which led the fan to create the musical and take it to the studios.
Earlier this year, an unauthorized version of “Hamilton,” which compared homosexuality with drug addiction, was presented in the Door McAllen church in Texas. The creator of the musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda, tweeted in response, “Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work.”
Andy Warhol is also under fire for alleged misappropriation of his photographs as he will face the case in front of the US Supreme Court.
The recent waves of fan interpretation have blurred the areas in which audiences, interpreters, and creators operate. The court cases will focus on issues relating to fair use, ownership of intellectual property, and trademark infringement. Whatever will come out of the cases, creators and producers hope that it will draw a line in fans’ interpretation of creations.
What is “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical”
The “Bridgerton” series was a hit on TikTok. It prompted fans Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear to create content about the series in musical form. The two released their videos on TikTok; they eventually gained traction and caught the attention of millions of viewers.
The women gained positive feedback and suggestions from their fans on TikTok. Social media’s eventual rise to popularity helped Barlow and Bear to rake in fans from all over the world. Netflix then expressed its delight in the gimmick, saying that it was good for their publicity. The streaming giant said that it was blown away by the women’s performance.
Eventually, the songs created by Barlow and Bear, which are taken from dialogues in Bridgerton, became an album and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
Netflix calls out Barlow and Bear
The author of the book series on which the “Bridgerton” is based, Jane Quinn, said, “I was flattered and delighted when they began. There is a difference, however, between composing on TikTok and recording and performing for commercial gain.”
“Netflix offered Barlow & Bear a license that would allow them to proceed with their scheduled live performances at the Kennedy Center and Royal Albert Hall, continue distributing their album, and perform their Bridgerton-inspired songs live as part of larger programs going forward. Barlow & Bear refused,” Netflix said in a statement.
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.