The Bridgerton Sex Scene Scandal and Copyright Infringement

The Bridgerton Sex Scene Scandal and Copyright Infringement

My dear readers,

If you have not found yourself living under a rock for the past month, you’ve likely discovered the scandalous, shocking, ball and dignitary filled days that capture the hearts and minds of the families of Bridgerton. This delectable and delightful series is a feast for the eyes, an absolute guilty pleasure and everyone who has a Netflix account or knows someone with a Netflix account is All. About. It. That is to say, it’s the absolute talk of the town. There are no two ways about it.

The costumes, the Gossip Girl style drama and, if we’re being very frank, the steamy sex scenes, have every heart … and dare I say, other parts ...  in a flutter. And it’s those scenes and the disrespectful and illegal actions of a number of pornography sites across the internet that have caused even more drama than Lady Whistledown herself (clearly my scandalous legal pages nemesis), between streaming empire Netflix and said pornography sites. But before we get into the sordid details of the Bridgerton sex scene scandal and copyright infringement, shall we have a quick copyright and intellectual property refresher? Grab your goblet, loosen your corset or cravat and settle in for the latest legal gossip...

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property, or IP, is intangible. You can’t touch it. It’s essentially the property of your mind, the rights you have for the ideas in your head. As soon as a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic piece of work ‘comes to be’, it is automatically protected by copyright law. 

More often than not, it’s the person who ‘created’ this IP that owns it, unless this owner gives someone else permission (the right) to use that IP with a specific contract or license. 

Are you still with me, dear reader?


This brings us to the recent Bridgerton scandal. I dare say, with the internet so completely charged with free streaming sites, with many being of the (gasp!) x-rated variety, it’s no wonder this latest television extravaganza has been added to the list of shows such as Game of Thrones and Normal People to have had their intellectual property stolen and illegally used. Let’s be transparent, sex and drama are high on the charts when it comes to so-called click-rates on the internet. But here’s the rub: those sex scenes are part of Bridgerton, which is the brain child of writer and producer Shonda Rhimes (read: her IP), who legally and contractually would have sold the rights to her IP to Netflix to bring them to life on screen… which means they own the sex scenes. Legally, in order for any person or company - whether it be a streaming service, pornography site, or person on Etsy creating coffee mugs with x-rated snaps on them - to use these scenes, they need to be granted permission through a license or assignment. Kind of like giving away your eldest daughter to the most eligible Duke.

No license or IP assignment, no Bridgerton action!

To license your IP, you’re basically giving someone permission to use it for a specific reason or purpose: whether it’s to put an image on a throw rug, use a quote in a magazine you’re writing or paint another artist’s picture to hang in your home. You still get to keep your rights and IP as your own, you’re simply lending it out for a specific purpose and/or time… do you see?  

To assign your IP to another person or entity, you are essentially transferring ownership permanently. You can pick and choose which rights are being assigned, such as just the sex scenes, only the ballroom scenes, only particular episodes or the full rights to the Bridgerton series and franchise itself. It would be so difficult to choose, would it not? It’s all so delightfully scandalous! 

Netflix puts up their dukes

In any case, Netflix most certainly DID NOT grant these pornography sites any license, let alone assigment to their IP in any capacity! Legally speaking, the usage and distribution of the scenes by these pornographic sites constitutes piracy - the unauthorised usage, copying or distribution of materials that are protected under copyright law.

This means it is absolutely in Netflix’s right and power to sue these sites for copyright infringement. Shock, horror, dear readers. These pornographic pirates are up for a rude awakening when they realise their little dalliance will cost them more than their weight in igold!

Until next time...


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Riz McDonald is an e-commerce business owner, business coach, podcaster and a lawyer for over 16 years. She’s also a mum and a lover of good wine.

***Disclaimer. Please read!!***

This article is for general information purposes only and should be used solely as general guidance.  It does not and is not intended to represent legal advice or other professional advice.  


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