Be “Creative” (But With Your Own Ideas)

This is looking like the most prominent copyright-infringement lawsuit we have seen in some time. Some on the net might especially want to pay attention to it. Although it being the net some are also likely to take away the wrong lesson from it.

[From Buzzfeed. On Instagram. August 1, 2022.]

As a reminder (and in case you do not know), although we are at every opportunity informed Bridgerton is award-winning, while actually sitting through – somehow – the first episode, I am willing to be a voice in the wilderness in stating that I felt by its end that it was awful as history, awful as a Regency fictional piece, and just awful generally. Frankly, I could not recall anything else recently produced about the time period that was so bad. One episode of it was more than enough: I had not the slightest desire to waste my time with any more of it.

I discussed the program at length here in 2020. In particular I find “re-imagining” history to be dangerous on screen when so many people watching may have little idea of the actual history that is being “re-imagined.” (Have we forgotten also already that the biggest war in Europe since 1945 was begun in February 2022 in part over a larger country’s determination essentially to impose its version of history on a smaller neighbor?) As with the terrible (also Netflix) Jane Austen Persuasion adaptation, we definitely do not need “re-imaginings” coming at us from historically-rooted – in any sense – entertainment. Regency England is not Marvel or Star Trek.

What also irked me as I watched it was it seemed the program was seeking from our early 21st century slyly to mock Jane Austen’s books. Moreover I could not shake off the disturbing feeling that the creators were relatedly laughing up their sleeves at viewers who did not catch that. Overall it hit me as lazy historical “presentism” conveniently termed “fantasy.” (Meaning “critiquing” people’s behavior in the past based on what we know, but which those in that past naturally did not know and could not have known.)

All of that is in this sense beside the point, though. About the lawsuit, Buzzfeed explains:

Netflix is suing Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, the creators of the unofficial Bridgerton musical that got its start on TikTok, accusing them of “blatant infringement” of the streaming giant’s intellectual property rights.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, Netflix alleged that the duo and their company, Barlow & Bear, “appropriate others’ creative work and goodwill to benefit themselves” by planning live shows around their Grammy-winning album The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, as well as selling merchandise with Bridgerton branding without Netflix’s permission. Executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, the streaming series is based on books by Julia Quinn, and Netflix owns the adaptation rights…

…“What started as a fun celebration by Barlow & Bear on social media has turned into the blatant taking of intellectual property solely for Barlow & Bear’s financial benefit,” Rhimes said…

In simple terms, Netflix asserts those TikTok creators went well-beyond fun “fan” videos. Netflix asserts they crossed over into the realm of intellectual property theft. The streaming service it seems has a strong legal case, so unless there is a settlement it will probably win in court (or copyright law means, well, basically nothing anymore).

[Photo by Pixabay on]

The bottom line is this case should be a lesson to many on social media, including writers of “fan-fiction.” You cannot just do whatever you want with someone else’s copyrighted-creation merely because you want to do something with it. Most of the time if you produce stuff off the back of their original the creator(s) probably will not care if they see it as long as it is not “money-making” for you (as Netflix did not care about what those two were doing as long is it was only TikToks); but remember too that NOT being sued does not mean a creation taken from someone else’s idea is not necessarily infringing on that copyrighted-creator’s rights.

And if you do by chance become “big” and earn money off of that work that depends on the existence of the original you did not create, as this lawsuit demonstrates the copyright holder will probably come after you… regardless of how dopey their original creation was in the first place. 😉

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

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