Seoul Court Ruled Jin-Young Park, Famous Korean Song Writer and Producer, Is Guilty of Plagiarism – Korean Copyright Law on Music Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement

On February 10, Seoul Central District Court ruled that Mr. Jin-Young Park, one of the most influential music producers and composers, had plagiarized another Korean composer’s song.  The defendant Mr. Park is well-known as the co-owner of JYP Entertainment, one of the top Korean music production companies(Gi-Huek-Sa).  He has produced numerous albums for famous K-Pop artists with great successes including, but not limited to, Rain, G.O.D and Wonder Girls.

The plaintiff Mr. Shin-Il Kim, a K-Pop composer, had filed a lawsuit against Mr. Park on July 2011, claiming Mr. Park’s song titled “Someday”, sung by IU, had infringed his song titled “To My Man” and he is entitled to a compensation of approximately 90,000USD.

It was reported that the judge recommended a settlement to the parties before issuing the ruling, but the both parties objected to it.  And finally the court sided with the plaintiff.  The Court found that four bars from the chorus of the defendant’s song is substantially similar to that of the plaintiff’s song which constitutes a copyright infringement and ordered the defendant to pay approximately 20,000USD to the plaintiff as a remedy.

Under Korean copyright law, a claim for plagiarism and copyright infringement is established when the defendant had access to the copyrighted work of the plaintiff and there exists a substantial similarity between the two works.  With regard to the first element, the access does not mean an actual access.  Rather, just a reasonable possibility of access is sufficient to meet that element.  In similar cases, Korean courts have presumed and acknowledged the accessibility in a situation where the plaintiff’s song was publicly available and widely disseminated.  The next element, a substantial similarity is quite difficult to establish.  Korean courts have set the basic rule that, when deciding the substantial similarity in musical compositions, the court should consider every component of the song with special emphasis on the melody part and this comparison shall be done on both quantitative and qualitative levels and reviewed by the perspective of ordinary observers.

The ordinary observers, however, might feel boring about this tedious legal theory.  By contrast, listening to a song is always much fun.  So here is the Youtube video clip where someone compared the parts of the two songs of Mr. Shin-Il Kim and Mr. Jin-Young Park.

One last note.  Mr. Jin-Young Park appealed the ruling and it is currently pending in Seoul High Court.

If you have any question about music plagiarism and copyright infringement issue under Korean copyright law, please send your inquiry email to Mr. Wonil Chung by clicking here.

© 2012 Wonil Chung, a Korean IP Lawyer. All rights reserved.

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may or may not reflect the most current legal development at the time of view, nor is it applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations. 

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