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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, Continue reading


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Apple’s Korean Office Paid Compensation to a South Korean User for iPhone Location Tracking – Does This Mean Korean Court Made an End to the Legal Turmoil?

It was reported that last month Apple’s South Korean office paid $945 of compensation to one of South Korean iPhone users for the breaching of privacy by the controversial iPhone user location tracking.  Here is the detail from Reuters.

By the way, some news media reported that this was a ruling from a Korean district court.  I, as a Korean lawyer, think that statement is half right and half wrong.  Basically it is true that the court issued a ruling which ordered the Apple Korea to pay $945 to the user.  But this was not a formal trial case, but a Request for a Payment Order case.  Payment order is a more convenient & simplified legal procedure for claimant to get a judgment from the court compared to a formal lawsuit.  Once a request filed, the Korean court does not question the debtor (in this case, the Apple Korea) and issue a Payment Order within 2 or 4 weeks (in certain courts, within a few days). This payment order, a sort of ruling, asks the opposing party to choose whether to admit the claim as written on the request or to make an objection.  If no objection has been raised from the opposing party within 2 weeks, then Continue reading


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Court Rulings on the legality of Internet-Based TV Recording Service and Time/Place-Shifting Device Hosting Service – Korea, Japan, Singapore and the U.S.

There exist growing needs for consumers to watch TV broadcastings from any place and by any way they want.  In response to these needs, several new business models have come into; for example, an Internet TV recording and/or streaming service, RS-DVR, SlingBox and any other place/time-shifting devices hosting services.  But the problem is that copyright holders, the TV broadcasting companies, are fiercely objecting to these new business models contending they are infringing their copyrights.  It is quite interesting for an IP lawyer to see how the courts from various countries have found the answer to this legal issue.

Lets’ start with the situation in South Korea, where I’m practicing the law.  Actually there have been two cases related to this issue; Ental TV case and MyTV caseEntal TV was an Internet-based TV recording service.  The registered users paid some amount of fees to the service provider and the service provider recorded TV broadcastings on its server at the request of the individual users with its automated software program, then converted it into the PC file format and sent the file to the user via Internet.  On April 30, 2009, the Seoul High Court ruled this Ental TV service infringed copyright of the TV Broadcasters.  The court found that it was the service provider, not an individual user, who recorded and copied the TV program, because the service provider owned and managed all the facilities used in recording the TV program.  Also the Court added that even though it was the individual user who copied the TV program, the very act of copying Continue reading


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Seoul Court Ruled Uploading 15-Second Video of Toddler’s Dancing to a Famous Singer’s Song Is Not a Copyright Infringement and the Copyright Holder Who Sent an Unjust Take Down Notice Is Liable for a Monetary Compensation

There have been an increasing conflict between the free expression and the copyright protection in relation to the matter of a UCC, a user-created content, posted on the internet site.  For example, in the United States, there was a legal dispute concerning a 29-second YouTube video clip of a toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”. In that case, the copyright holder to the Prince’s song alleged the YouTube video clip explicitly infringed the song’s copyright.

Almost the identical lawsuit had been filed in South Korea. In Korea, a father uploaded to his blog operated by Naver, the largest Internet portal site, a video capturing his 5 year-old daughter singing and dancing to a famous Korean female singer(Dambi Sohn)’s song, titled “Crazy” – what a coincident that two cases even had very similar song titles, “Let’s Go Crazw” and “Crazy”.  Just soon after the video clip was uploaded, it was taken down by the portal site operator upon a request from the copyright holder to the song alleging the video is a copyright infringement as it was used without permission. Then the father filed both a declaratory lawsuit claiming that uploading the video did not constitute a copyright infringement and a monetary compensation lawsuit for mental distress which he suffered from the unjust take down of the video he’d made.

On February 18, 2010, the Seoul Southern District Court sided with the father. The court ruled that uploading a video at issue did not constitute a copyright infringement because it fell within the scope of “the quotation from works made public” under Article 28 of the Copyright Act, which Continue reading


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[Q&A: Entertainment Law] Can a Film Company Use a Screen Shot Which Contains My Image Without My Consent?

Q) I, as a foreign actress living in Korea, recently appeared in a Korean movie that was very successful. I had about 10 lines – 10 minutes of screen time.  Now I see that the film company has put my picture on the back of the DVD case in which the movie has just been released. They Never asked for my permission and Never paid me any money for this.  Do you believe that I have a case against the film company?  Thank You.

A) I understand a certain portion of movie screen shot is printed on the back side of the DVD case.  In this case, the producer, not an actor, has the right to the screen shot.  So the producer does Continue reading


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Can a Game Character Itself be Protected as a Copyrighted Work Separated from Its Original Work As a Whole?

This is an issue arising from an international IP dispute between Konami, a well-known Japanese game production company, and Neople, a Korean game production company.  Back in 2007, Konami alleged that game characters in Neople’s game titled “Shin-Ya-Gu”(New baseball) infringed Konami’s copyright in its famous baseball game “Jikkyou Yaku”(see the picture.  the left image is Konami’s character and the right one is Neople’s) and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit to a Korean court.

The lower courts had overruled Konami’s claim stating a game character itself could not be protected as a copyrighted work under Korean copyright law unless such character had been commercialized independently.

This year, however, the Supreme Court of Korea dissented from the lower courts’ opinion.  The Supreme Court ruled a game character can be copyrighted separated from its original work, a game.  The court held that “In order to be protected under the copyright law, a work must be a creative work expressing human thoughts or emotions. Thus, in case of a character implying shape and name of person, animal and so on appearing in cartoon, television, movie, newspaper, magazine and so on, if the creative personality was shown in the visual expression as to the appearance, action of such person, animal, then such character can be a work as protected under the copyright law, apart from its original work”.  Then the Supreme Court continued to held that  Continue reading


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Chung & Partners Successfully Represented Renowned U.S company in Policing Intellectual Property in Korea

Recently, Mr. Wonil Chung, a partner at Chung & Partners, has successfully represented NHS, Inc., an internationally renowned U.S. company which sells skateboards, apparel under various trademarked brand worldwide, in policing their trademark in South Korea.  NHS, Inc. and its Korean distributor had found that counterfeits of SantaCruz, one of the NHS, Inc.’s premium brand, had been made and sold in numerous online shopping mall sites in Korea.  They requested Mr. Wonil Chung to stop them from selling the counterfeits.  Mr. Wonil Chung sent cease and desist letters to the online shopping sites which sold the counterfeits, notifying Continue reading


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Introduction to the Right of Publicity in South Korea

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 Continue reading


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KT, Softbank Inked Contents Investment Fund Deal

Yesterday it was announced that KT, Korea’s telephone and IPTV company, and Softbank, a Japan-based telecom and Internet group will equally invest 20 billion won in a joint fund to secure contents for digital media such as web-based television.  By signing the deal with the Japanese company, KT, the No. 2 IPTV operator, wants to secure copyrights to a vast volume of content, Continue reading