Cases of dj vu are nothing new in the entertainment industry. Much thanks to global media outlets and online communities, accusations of plagiarism or copyright violations increasingly flood the world of entertainment, making the protection of intellectual property a very sensitive issue.
With the advent of YouTube, online portal sites and a blogging community that keeps everyone in the online world connected, acts of plagiarism are increasingly becoming effortless to detect.
|A scene from KBS sketch show “Gag Concert” (KBS)|
The popular Korean comedy skit show “Gag Concert” has been in the media spotlight recently after plagiarism allegations surfaced surrounding one of the show’s newest segments. On Feb. 17, the show aired a new comedy routine called “Geondaleui Jogeon (the conditions of gangster life)” and it was later revealed that the format of the routine bared a striking resemblance to a comedy routine from the Japanese gag show “Cowcow.”
However, legally, comedy routines appear to fall into a gray area. The line between originality, inspiration and plain thievery is not so black and white.
“The core expression of copyright laws is to protect, however, ideas do not fall under this protection,” said Choi Eun-hee, a law professor at the Department of Culture and Arts Business at Seoul Digital University. “The reality is, when it comes to comedy, claiming exclusive rights to an original idea or expression is not an easy task.”
In the case of the Gag Concert skit, which features local comedian Kim Jun-ho, along with Kim Won-hyo and Choi Hyo-jong, the script was different from the Japanese version. Although the spirit in which the routine was created is widely seen as dishonest by the public, from a legal standpoint, comedians can still get by unscathed.
“If Kim Jun-ho’s team featured the whole format and script similar to the ‘Cowcow’ Japanese comedians, this would be an infringement to the copyright law,” said Choi. “However copyright law only protects the exact expression therefore if Kim tweaked the skit with different details, he is free to do so; you just can’t enforce copyright law onto stand-up comedy.”
“This logic is similar for music and movies. You have to see if it carries a person’s ideas and intellect,” she said. “Laws do not protect facts, ideas, systems or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”
Music plagiarism can occur in two forms: stealing the melody of a particular song or sampling a song, meaning taking a certain portion from a song and using it in a different track.
In 2009, K-pop star G-Dragon released his much anticipated solo debut album titled “Heartbreaker.” However, soon after its release, the rapper was accused of plagiarism by Sony Music, claiming that the album’s title track “Heartbreaker,” which was written and composed by G-Dragon, sounded similar to American hip-hop artist Flo Rida’s single “Right Round.”
The K-pop star was accused of illegally sampling portions of Flo Rida’s single, and chose to remedy the situation by inviting the American rapper to feature in a new version of the song to avoid any legal actions.
The SBS drama “Five Fingers,” which first aired late last year, also came under fire after being accused of plagiarizing the storyline of the drama of a novel. The drama revolved around the story of the social and family struggles of a genius pianist. A blogger was the first to point out the similarities between the drama and the novel titled “Murder Rhapsody,” which also involves the story of a genius musician.
Although the staff members of Five Fingers claimed that they had never even heard of the novel, the author of Murder Rhapsody publicly stated that not only was the basic story line of the drama the same as his novel, but even the character descriptions were similar. However, no legal actions have been taken regarding this issue.
By Julie Jackson and Bae Soo-min