Netflix sues Grammy-winning Unofficial Bridgerton Musical

Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow accepting their Grammy for The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical

Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow accepting their Grammy for The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical
Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer (Getty Images)

Netflix announced today that it’s suing Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, creators of The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical—a project the streamer originally gave its full-throated support for, back when it was just A very effective bit of fan-created marketing for the well-received romantic show.

Let’s flash back for a second to early 2021, when Barlow and Bear first began exploring, on TikTok, the idea of ​​expanding their love of Netflix’s sexy period drama into a musical. The project quickly picked up fans, including Bridgerton author Julia Quinn, and Netflix itself, which promoted their efforts on social media. (It’s savvy marketing, after all, to show how much passion fans can bring to bear on your IP.) The streamer went so far as to give Barlow and Bear permission to release an actual album—which is how they became some of the youngest Grammy winners in the award show’s historyand some of the first to ever win in a musical theater category without actually, y’know, staging their show as musical theater.

The rub appears to have come when Barlow and Bear decided to change that last bit last weekputting TUBM (as “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Album Live in Concert”) on stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and charging as much as $150 for tickets. (And also, as Deadline notescompeting with Netflix’s own plans for a live Bridgerton experience.)

And just like that, Netflix went from “Aren’t these great fans” to “That’s oursassholes” with a quickness, accusing Barlow and Bear of falsely claiming to have permission to stage the show. (As opposed to the permission they apparently had to release the album; we have a sense that might be where this gets legally tricky, since Barlow and Bear can presumably claim they were just doing a live performance of songs they already had permission to release. Although if we’re being honest, Netflix’s claims here seem…pretty hard to argue against.) So far, neither artist has responded to the lawsuit, which also claims that they’re getting ready to tour and sell merch related to the show, which would obviously just compound Netflix’s claims. If nothing else, it’s a grim little reminder that companies love fan projects and engagement…for exactly as long as they don’t give the impression that they’re fucking with their money.

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