What exactly is the Free Britney movement and how did it come to be?

The Editors
·7-min read
Photo credit: J. Merritt - Getty Images
Photo credit: J. Merritt - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Following the recent FX documentary, Framing Britney Spears, the public have a renewed interest in the singer's conservatorship contract. Said contract sparked what's known as the 'Free Britney' movement (wherein fans are petitioning for the singer to be legally "freed" from her father's guardianship and for her to regain control over her finances and independence).

Last November, it was reported that Britney vowed not to perform again while her father, Jamie Spears, remains in control of her estate and her lawyer declared there is no "viable working relationship" between the pair. However, Jamie Spears' (Britney's father) lawyers argued in court papers that: "Mr Spears is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing as conservator of the estate; he should be commended, not suspended."

Despite Britney's protests, it was ruled that Jamie would remain in control of her money and schedule, as co-conservator with financial company Bessemer Trust. That said, there's still the possibility for Britney to once again petition a court to overturn this ruling.

Now, as Britney fans are reigniting their protest that she ought to be able to live life on her own terms, one theory has made its way into a viral TikTok video – questioning whether or not Britney was personally involved with the making of the new documentary. The idea being that she posted online a few month ago saying "Project Rose is coming!" and that the symbol of a rose crops up throughout Framing Britney Spears:

For those wanting a recap of the whole 'Free Britney' movement...

How did Free Britney start?

Free Britney started when fans of the legendary Britney Spears became increasingly concerned about her legal guardianship contract, which sees her father Jamie Spears have control of her finances and personal affairs. The movement (and subsequent popular hashtag on social media) was initially started by a podcast called Britney's Gram and a blog by Anthony Elia, which has since been shut down by Britney's team.

Jamie Spears' legal team allegedly wrote in documentation when attempting to sue Anthony for defamation: "It's time for the conspiracy theories about Britney Spears' well-being and the mob #FreeBritney movement to stop... Over the past few months, Britney and her father Jamie have sat by while fans have accused them of numerous false and malicious things, including attempts to mislead the public with the content that appears on her social media."

Photo credit: KMazur - Getty Images
Photo credit: KMazur - Getty Images


How is Britney's financial freedom restricted?

A financial trust, known as the SJB Revocable Trust, was set up in 2004 by Britney in order to protect her money and assets, plus protect her children's, Sean and Jayden, inheritance (Britney reportedly has about 30% of the shared custody of them, the rest of the time the boys spend with their father, Kevin Federline).

However, her name was reportedly removed as a trustee when she was placed under conservatorship in 2008, after she publicly experienced a mental health breakdown, and the court appointed "temporary successors of the trust".

The arrangement saw the singer relinquish all legal control over her estate, financial and personal assets. Instead those rights have been granted to her father and legal team. Typically, a contract such as this is reserved for severely mentally incapacitated people, but fans are arguing that since 2008 she has been on world tours, completed a Vegas residency and released new music, therefore proving she's capable of living an independent life once more.

In October 2018, Britney announced a second Vegas residency, but it was later cancelled – she said due to her father’s sudden poor health. It was later reported that Britney had also checked into a mental health facility.

Photo credit: Gabe Ginsberg - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gabe Ginsberg - Getty Images

Supporters of the #FreeBritney movement are adamant that Britney has been manipulated, is being controlled by her father and should have greater autonomy over her own life. However, other sources report that she is already heavily involved in any decision-making and that she is happy with the arrangement.

Documents show that in 2018, the singer spent $400,000 on living expenses, $66,000 on household supplies and $1.1 million on her legal and conservator fees. Her father made $128,000 from his involvement, according to ET. In September 2019, Britney's father was accused (and then cleared) of hitting her eldest son, Sean. The police report was filed by Kevin Federline.

Fans regularly leave comments urging Britney to wear a certain colour in her next video if she needs help, or have written saying their messages of concern have been deleted from underneath her social media posts. Others praise her for being a source of positivity on social media and say they love watching her dancing videos, seeing her pictures of new outfits or flowers.

How are the rest of Britney's family involved in the Free Britney movement?

In July 2020, Britney's mother, Lynne, reportedly filed legal documents asking to receive special notice on "all matters" pertaining to Britney’s income and assets, making it clear that she too wants a say in how the star's $59m fortune is used and protected. Vanity Fair noted that she liked comments from fans suggesting the conservatorship is an infringement on Britney's rights.

Then, a month later, it was reported that Britney asked a Californian court to put a stop to her father's, Jamie Spears, role as her legal guardian (which sees him have control over all her finances, schedule and more), and have those responsibilities handed over to an outside, professional source on a full-time basis.

At the time, Jamie had stepped back from his role due to health issues and the reigns were handed over to Jodi Montgomery, who is part of the private firm, Pais Montgomery Fiduciary, who, it was reported, the singer wished to have permanent control of her conservatorship. Britney’s lawyer Samuel D Ingham III said she is "strongly opposed" to her father resuming his position as head of her affairs.

Photo credit: Frank Micelotta - Getty Images
Photo credit: Frank Micelotta - Getty Images

Britney's younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, (who has been vocal about defending her sibling's health issues on social media) then appeared to be taking a more active role in managing the pop icon's finances. The LA Times reported that in a court filing, Jamie Lynn was named as trustee of the estate set up to protect Britney's children financially in the event of her death, and is requesting that all of those assets be consolidated into accounts wherein she is the custodian.

Fans of the 'Free Britney' movement took this as a good sign, that another family member (perhaps who is closer to Britney than her father) wants to step in. A hearing to discuss the conservatorship was postponed, after fans kept hacking into the private Zoom link, and a court ruled that it was to be extended until "the conclusion of the pandemic".

What is known about Britney's mental state?

In truth, nothing is clearcut and it's unfair to speculate. However, a video that Britney uploaded to Instagram last spring saw her tell fans that her gym had burned down after she'd left candles unattended, she has also posted similarly erratic content online (including a video showing her snapping her ankle while dancing). Many posted concerned comments saying they're worried about her mental state – with some suggesting Britney's her issues are caused by the conservatorship and lack of freedom she holds, whereas others took her video as evidence that the conservatorship should remain in place.

Towards the end of last year, Britney Spears' lawyer, Samuel D Ingham III, described her mental state as "comatose". According to a report from TMZ, Ingham told a court judge that the Toxic hitmaker doesn't want to perform again, but that her father is intent on her career continuing.

It's believed that when the judge asked Ingham if Britney would be willing to sign a declaration of her feelings, Ingham said his client lacked the capacity to make such a declaration, likening her to a comatose patient. Ingham, it's reported, was not saying Britney is comatose, but he used the expression as a way of demonstrating her inability to sign a legal document. He added that even comatose patients are able to have their lawyers speak on their behalf.

We hope that whatever the situation behind closed doors really is, that Britney is well, safe and happy.

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