Songwriters Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear won the 2022 Grammy for best musical theater album. After they uploaded a good deal of music video performances and compositions to TikTok, including one that Netflix’s official Twitter account tweeted in January 2021, their music began to acquire popularity in 2021. Now those performances are under legal scrutiny.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Netflix recently filed a lawsuit in a D.C. district court accusing songwriters Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear of “blatant infringement of intellectual property rights.”
Shonda Rhimes and Julia Quinn have also commented on the lawsuit. Netflix is suing Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear for putting on “for-profit” productions of their Grammy-winning Unofficial Bridgerton Musical. The pair and their business, Barlow & Bear, are accused of profiting through a July 26 staged performance of the musical at the Kennedy Center and a future performance set for the Royal Albert Hall in London, as well as “their own line of Bridgerton-themed merchandise.”
The duo and their company Barlow & Bear have profited off of valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series Bridgerton.
Bridgerton reflects the creative work and hard-earned success of hundreds of artists and Netflix employees. 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.
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. Barlow & Bear’s agent said that they had no interest in interfering with Netflix’s rights or in being known only as the ‘Bridgerton girls.’
Barlow & Bear’s representations were false. Despite their assurances to the contrary, Barlow & Bear are now claiming carte blanche authorization to profit from Netflix’s protected intellectual property in whatever way they see fit.
The songwriting team allegedly did this despite Netflix repeatedly telling them that their compositions were “not approved,” according to the lawsuit. As part of their “attempt to establish an international image for themselves,” Netflix has labelled Barlow and Bear’s album and performances as “blatant infringement of intellectual property rights.”
In this case, Netflix admits that after the first season’s release in December 2020, “countless other fans inspired by the series” including Bear and Barlow started submitting musical compositions based on the show’s characters, dialogue, and plot to social media sites like TikTok. However, according to the streamer, their live performance included material that was taken “verbatim” from the series and was given to a “sold-out audience at the Kennedy Center,” where tickets cost up to $149 in addition to VIP packages.
We’ll have to see how this turns out. You can check out one of the troublesome videos below.
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