The Bridge: Fair use is under fire! Netflix is suing the duo behind the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, and the case isn’t as open and shut as you might expect.
It all started with Bridgerton, a wildly successful alternative history Netflix show based on a book series. A year ago, a couple of TikTokers wrote a few Bridgerton parody songs that went viral, garnering millions of views and an immediate following. In a twist too juicy to ignore, the pair of creators went on to release a 15-song album online, and subsequently won a Grammy.
Now Netflix is stepping in, saying that the duo has gone way beyond fair use in the creation of this Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.
Fandom has a long and complicated history. Originally spawned as a way for fiction lovers to interact with their favorite TV, movies and books (and each other), it’s taken on a life of its own as the internet has grown. Most fan works, such as fan fiction and fan art, fall under fair use. They’re not making money, they’re simply creating for the love of it.
Dollar Dollar Bills, Y’all
Unsurprisingly, things get messy as soon as money comes into play. The duo behind the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical sold out a venue and Netflix came roaring in to put a stop to the theft of their IP.
IP, or intellectual property, is the protected work of writers and creators. If you dream up a character and put it on a page, that becomes your IP. It’s often sold to big studios, who then get their cut for marketing and production. Parody and fair use protects fans who want to play around with IP that doesn’t belong to them.
But the waters get murky when you start to try and profit from the work, like the Unofficial Musical is doing.
There are efforts by industry veterans to change the intellectual property game for good, essentially using Web3 and decentralization to put creative control firmly in the hands of the creators and their fans. This would eliminate the aforementioned legal murkiness, because in theory the rights to the IP is stored on the blockchain, and the smart contract visible to any and all comers. Whether this method takes off remains to be seen, but proponents of the model are hopeful that we’re seeing the future of IP creation.
In the meantime, we await the verdict in the Netflix vs. the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical duo – and they enjoy the fruits of their popularity, lawsuit or no lawsuit. They say no publicity is bad publicity, after all. Netflix may have inadvertently created a whole new surge of fame for the duo – the Streisand Effect in full swing.