Photo Credit: Netflix
The “Bridgerton” series, a romance drama with a vintage but opulent setting, was first made available on Netflix in December 2020. Because of the show’s stunning costumes for both men and women, its representation of LGBTQ people and different races, and its graphic, explicit moments that many viewers found striking, it attracted millions of viewers. More than 83 million households worldwide saw Bridgerton, according to a Netflix estimate.
The musical “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” produced by a fan, was accused of intellectual theft and had to be canceled. The illegal productions’ London performance at the Royal Albert Hall was also postponed. At the Kennedy Center, the show recently sold out tickets for production. Netflix has long tolerated the TikTok-born musical and has now filed a lawsuit against its writers of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.”
The producer and creator of the series, Shondra Rhimes, said, “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.”
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Creators vs. possible theft of works of art
The Bridgerton case is one of the numerous instances involving creators and production creatives asserting intellectual ownership of works of art.
The ability to be creative with their content and draw inspiration from television shows or films on social media has allowed content creators to attract fans. Like “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” which was created by a fan and first appeared on TikTok. After some time, it started gaining popularity, which inspired the fan to write a musical and submit it to a studio.
An unofficial performance of “Hamilton,” which likened homosexuality to drug addiction, was staged in the Door McAllen church in Texas earlier this year. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical’s composer, responded by tweeting, “Grateful to all of you who reached out about this illegal, unauthorized production. Now lawyers do their work.”
As he will be defending himself in front of the US Supreme Court, Andy Warhol is now facing criticism for alleged misuse of a photographer’s photographs.
The areas where audiences, interpreters, and artists operate have become hazier in light of recent fan interpretation surges. The court will discuss matters regarding fair use, intellectual property ownership, and trademark infringement. Creators and producers are hoping that whatever the results of the lawsuits are, they will draw a line in how viewers interpret their works.
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What prompted the start of the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical
TikTok users loved the “Bridgerton” series. It inspired viewers Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear to produce musical content around the show. The two uploaded their videos to TikTok, which eventually gained popularity and drew millions of viewers.
From their TikTok followers, the women received compliments and ideas. With the inevitable surge in popularity of social media, Barlow and Bear were able to attract followers from all around the world. Then, Netflix declared its satisfaction with the ploy, noting that it was beneficial to its public image. The world’s largest streaming platform claimed that the women’s performances were laudable.
The Barlow and Bear-written songs, which were eventually turned into an album, were nominated for a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. The songs drew inspiration from the discourse in Bridgerton.
What Netflix thinks of the matter
In a statement, Netflix said, “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.”
Meanwhile, Jane Quinne, the author of the book series on which the “Bridgerton” is based, 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.”