Extra! Korea

July 2, 2010

BoA, Girls’ Generation, and f(x) use the same songwriting company. Uh-oh

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 12:55 pm

It turns out that BoA, Girls’ Generation, and f(x) (all of SM Entertainment) use the same songwriting/production company. Uh-oh. We know what that could lead to.

In case you’re wondering, its name is Dsign Music and it’s based in Trondheim, Norway. The Girls’ Generation hit song “Genie” was written by European composers who work for Sweden’s Music Publishing Group. SM Entertainment seems to like Scandinavia.

June 28, 2010

Lee Hyo-ri deletes 7 songs from album due to plagiarism accusations

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 9:33 am

You might recall how some of the songs on Lee Hyo-ri’s album have been accused of being plagiarized. In addition to admitting that they were copied (unprecedented in Korea), she has now announced that she will delete the accused seven songs from her album, H-Logic, leaving it with seven songs left.

I’d say that she’s taken a lot of responsibility. If you deleted 7 songs from the Wonder Girls’ latest “album” you’d have -3 songs, as it consists of So Hot, Tell Me, three versions of Nobody, and five (!) versions of 2 Different Tears. They worked for a year on one new song?

One of the problems was this:

Chang said Bahnus, who introduced himself as “a Yonsei University graduate who had sold numerous songs to foreign artists during his stay in the U.K,” lied about other things too.
“He was not a Yonsei University graduate and the contracts he had suggested for potential song sales were also fabricated,” he told a local daily.

The guy introduces himself as a graduate of Yonsei University* and people want to buy music from him? Did Keith Richards or Paul McCartney graduate from Oxford or Cambridge?

Another problem is that when one of these agencies has someone who actually has talent, they literally don’t know what to do with them. Take, for example, IU (아이유), below:

And what do they do? They waste her ability by making her sing a pop song about candy while dancing around with a guy in a marshmallow costume.

Even she doesn’t seem to expect to have her talents appreciated. When she co-won a music show contest, beating strong contenders like f(x), Seo In-young, and 4PM, er, I mean, 2Minute, I mean 2Minutes-Past-4 … she was so stunned that she had to be led to center stage, and when presented with the microphone, she tried to hand it off to somebody else.

* Yonsei University is one of Korea’s top three universities, known by their acronym SKY (Seoul National, Korea, and Yonsei). Graduate from one of them, and you’re set for life.

June 25, 2010

Lee Hyo-ri’s plagiarism scandal begins to envelope other artists

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 6:32 am

Recently, several songs on Lee Hyo-ri’s latest album, H-Logic, have been accused of being plagiarized. After initial denials by Lee’s agency, Mnet Media, she admitted that they were, perhaps the first time that a K-pop artist has ever done so, and then ended promotions for the album.

(The Joongang Daily has a summarized history of artists previously accused of plagiarism, including Hyo-ri herself, and you can go here to listen to samples of Hyo-ri’s songs and those that they’re supposed to have been plagiarized.)

The songs were submitted to Mnet by a seven-member songwriters’ group called Bahnus Vacuum, led by Bahnus (Lee Jae-young), who tried to prove his innocence by providing documents that were later found to have been forged.

Since many K-pop artists don’t write their own songs, and rely on people like Bahnus, the scandal is threatening to envelope other artists like Lee who relied upon Bahnus and his group.

Columnist Choi Seung-hyun elaborates:

The larger problem is how frequent [accusations of plagiarism] such are. Many if not most singers releasing new albums these days are accused of plagiarism. This is because singers have become cash cows rather than artists who are able to communicate with the public. Singers who present original songs about their own emotions are an endangered species, while a handful of composers contracted by powerful management companies dominate the tunes that top the charts. This increases the risk of plagiarism as each one of these composing machines churns out more than 50 songs a year.

Lee’s biggest mistake was in fact her failure to take charge of her songs and her album, contrary to what she has been saying in public. If a 13-year veteran of the entertainment industry and Korea’s reigning queen of pop is in such bad shape, things must be even worse for the younger singers who are being groomed by their agencies. Veteran rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Shin Jung-hyun said in a recent interview, “There is no real music on Korea’s pop music scene these days. There is only greed.”

Music critic Park Eun-seok would agree:

“It is highly likely that the management agency was fooled by the composer as the original songs are mostly non-mainstream,” music critic Park Eun-seok said. “However, this case clearly shows the abysmal reality of mainstream K-pop culture where songs are manufactured rather than created.”

(emphasis mine)

So why is the nation’s music industry so vulnerable to plagiarism scandals?

As it turns out, Korea has no established system to handle such disputes. The Performance Ethics Committee oversaw plagiarism cases in the past, but since being renamed the Korea Media Rating Board in 1998, no single body has been responsible for resolving plagiarism issues.

Almost all cases are handled through informal negotiations, although copyright holders can bring cases to the Korea Copyright Commission or to court. Those convicted can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 50 million won ($42,000), but few cases, if any, have involved court rulings.

[ snip ]

“There is a widespread idea among fraudulent songwriters that they can get away once they take money,” Baak Eun-sok, a pop music critic, said.

March 31, 2010

OK, maybe I plagiarized you. Will you appear on my remix?

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 1:34 pm

G-Dragon certainly found a great way to put that plagiarism issue to rest once and for all. Along with his concert DVD, he’s releasing a remix of the song “Heartbreaker” featuring … (drum roll) … Flo Rida!

Considering that Flo Rida hasn’t been to Korea (yet*) and G-Dragon hasn’t been to the States, I guess Flo Rida’s rap was phoned in, almost literally.

* Apparently, he’s coming very soon (in May, I believe), and guess who his special guest is going to be?

Edit/Update:

Yes, Flo Rida will be performing in Korea on May 21st and 22nd, and G-Dragon will be a special guest performer.

January 26, 2010

South Korea is the second-worst offender in online music piracy

Filed under: crime, intellectual property, music, the Internet — extrakorea @ 2:33 pm

According to a survey of 8,500 people in 13 countries by Hong Kong-based Music Matters, China illegally downloaded more music than any other country last year, followed by South Korea.

Illegal downloading of music is a global problem. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said in a report released last week that sales of the global recording industry dwindled 30 percent between 2004 and 2009 mainly due to rampant piracy. The federation estimates that 95 percent of the music downloaded last year was illegal.

But Korea’s Culture Ministry downplayed the survey on Monday, saying that it was unreliable since it only involved 13 countries and it even defines free music streaming from legal sites as illegal downloading.

January 25, 2010

Is Girls’ Generation’s “Oh!” plagiarized from Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive”?

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 2:03 pm

Girls’ Generation’s new song “Oh!” (in addition to giving us an overdose of Asian poses) has already been accused of being plagiarized from Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive.” You can judge for yourself by watching this video. Note that the maker of the video acknowledges that:
a. Rihanna’s song is 133 beats-per-minute (BPM) while G-Gen’s is 144.
b. Rihanna’s song is one semitone lower in pitch than G-Gen’s.

Know what I think? I think that … Rihanna looks really freakin’ hot in that video!

January 16, 2010

Stole someone’s technology? The government will help protect you from lawsuits

Filed under: intellectual property, Uncategorized — extrakorea @ 1:48 pm

The Joongang Daily tells us that the Korean government intends to help small- and medium-sized businesses, SMEs, fight overseas patent lawsuits by giving legal advice and providing insurance.

Additionally, the government hopes to nurture “invention capital” aimed at helping local companies buy and commercialize patents from colleges and research institutes. This pre-emptive measure, the ministry said, will help local companies avoid patent lawsuits in the first place.

According to a recent report by the Federation of Korean Industries, the largest business lobby group in Korea, many local firms have been sued or have faced threats of a lawsuit by so-called “patent trolls.” Patent trolls are also called non-performing entities, as they don’t actually use patents in their manufacturing operations but instead look to make money by suing other companies for breach of patent.

The FKI said there are around 220 patent trolls across the world.

I would support SMEs being protected from patent trolls, who seem to be aggressive, nonproductive entities, and having the purchases and commercialization of patents from universities and research institutes facilitated. Korea’s only real resource is its people, who are well-known throughout the world for their hard work. But look at the example that they begin the article with.

A Busan-based business that makes semiconductor parts was embroiled in a lawsuit last year filed by a Japanese firm, which claimed the Korean company breached certain technology patents.

The local company fought the allegation in Japanese court, but it wound up losing the case and eventually withdrew from the Japanese market.

The decision was a solid blow to the company, as its Japan business generated around 10 billion won ($9 million) in annual sales. The company, offered as an example by the government, is just one of numerous small and midsize businesses in Korea that has run into serious issues involving legal disputes by patent holders overseas.

This company doesn’t seem to be a victim. It looks like they stole someone else’s technology, and were caught and punished. If this is their best example of a poster child, then that’s just sad and reminds me of past examples of shameless intellectual property theft (see here, here, and here). Even now, the prevailing idea seems to be: “It’s not stealing if we do it.”

And, of course, let’s not forget about G-Dragon.

MC Mong, I haven’t forgotten you, either.

September 21, 2009

Sony formally complains about YG Entertainment (G-Dragon, 2NE1, Big Bang) plagiarism

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 11:39 pm

According to PopSeoul and the Korea Times Sony ATV Music Publishing has sent a letter of warning to YG Entertainment. They made accusations that four songs by G-Dragon, 2NE1, and Big Bang were plagiarized from songs by Flo Rida, Oasis, Lionel Ritchie, and Joe, respectively. YG Entertainment has yet to respond to these accusations.

August 15, 2009

Korean police don’t care about porn stars

Filed under: censorship, crime, gender equality, intellectual property — extrakorea @ 9:17 am

You may have heard the news about how American and Japanese porn produces are trying to sue Koreans who download porn, and then charge other people money to watch it.
Well, the Korean police don’t care. To be fair, though, they do have their reasons, which you can believe or doubt at your own discretion.

The officer said the video footage involved in the cases is not subject to protection from domestic law because it is neither academic nor artistic work.

Since pornography that depicts pubic hair or actual, as opposed to simulated, sexual intercourse, is illegal in Korea, I guess the police’s proper action would be to prosecute these people for breaking Korean laws. Let’s say that Harry Potter books are illegal in Country X, and that people in Country X start photocopying Harry Potter books and selling them for a profit. J.K. Rowling tries to sue those people for intellectual property piracy. Those people should be prosecuted for having Harry Potter books, because they are illegal in Country X, whether they are photocopied or bought from legitimate bookstores in other countries.

July 23, 2009

New Anti-Piracy Law; Earnings of Top Songwriters

Filed under: intellectual property, music, technology — extrakorea @ 11:17 pm

A new law meant to crack down on intellectual property piracy went into effect yesterday. So how strict is it?

Your five-year-old daughter mimmicks a popular song at home. She is so cute, so you pick up your camcorder to record her one-minute performance. You upload the clip on your blog to share it with your friends and relatives. This seemingly benign act, however, is in violation of the Korean copyright law. No kidding. Last month, there was an actual incident in which a video clip showing a five-year-old kid singing Son Dam-bi’s “Crazy” – for 58 seconds – was uploaded on a blog run by Naver.com, and the Korea Music Copyright Association asked the country’s biggest portal to block public access to the video clip.

[ snip ]

Under the revised rules, the Culture Ministry can shut down an online community or service in connection with copyright violations, even without a complaint from copyright holders.

[ snip ]

But what ordinary bloggers fear the most is the threat from law firms. A host of Korean law firms are currently representing copyright holders in the fields of music, images, and video, and they often send an email to users, asking them to pay a settlement fee in return for dropping the lawsuit.

In April, a local law firm threatened to file a suit against 8,047 users on the charge of copyright violations, and earned 7 billion won in settlement fees, a tactic that turned out to be illegal.

However, some web-sites can get a kind of “stamp of approval” from the government if they offer copyrighted material but protect it from downloading.

Regulators are rewarding those protecting cultural content. Soribada (www.soribada.com), a music content Web site, became the first online service provider (OSP) to be officially designated a “clean site” by the authorities.

Soribada was chosen for having functions that protected copyrighted content, including a filtering system that blocks the transfer of illegally copied material to other sites.

Once labeled clean, OSPs are able to enjoy a variety of benefits including exemption from governmental monitoring and supervision. But it can maintain its clean status when it passes the re-examination every six months. Visit http://www.cleansite.org for more information.

Despite this, this is expected to increase the exodus of Korean users from Korean sites (such as Naver) to foreign sites (such as YouTube) which began earlier this year. Heck, even the Blue House is doing it.

Since we’re on the topic of intellectual property, how much do Korea’s top songwriters earn?

According to the Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) on Monday, Park [Jin-young, also known as JYP] earned W1.078 billion (US$1=W1,249) from copyrights in 2008.

[ snip ]

The top earner was composer Cho Young-soo, who made W1.109 billion. Lyricist Ahn Young-min came in third with W928 million.

[ snip ]

At least 100 composers and lyricists earned over W100 million a year, and the top eight made over W500 million a year. With the growing digital music market led by an increase in sales of karaoke machines and mobile phone ringtones, the income of songwriters has been growing fast.

[ snip ]

Compared to Japan and the United States, what these songwriters are making in Korea is mere 1/10 and 1/100, leading to calls to come down harder on piracy.

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