The legal concept of right of publicity is relatively new one in South Korea. About 25 years ago, affected by the U.S. entertainment law cases, the Korean legal society began to theorize the concept of right of publicity, and finally the lower courts of Korea approved the right of publicity, although there is no ruling from the Supreme Court and no express statute provisions are established.
According to the Korean lower court’s rulings, the right of publicity is an exclusive property right independent from the traditional right of privacy. It is a property right to use the name, portrait or any other identity of a person for commercial purpose and to control the use thereof. The courts have ruled that the right of publicity can be transferred and inherited. Not only a living person but also a dead person has the right of publicity, which is protected during 50 years from the date of death.
In Korea, there have been many cases where celebrities and sports stars claim their rights of publicity against various types of unauthorized commercial exploitation of their identity. For example, in 2006, in a case where a Korean game company used pro baseball player’s name and personal record in their mobile baseball game, the Seoul Central District Court held that pro baseball players have the rights of publicity as to their names and personal game records so the game company which had used the player’s name and personal record without player’s permission (more…)