Britney’s revenge? Korean singer faces heat for plagarism
Not Lee Hyo-lee. The biggest star in the K-pop constellation abruptly cancelled her performance schedule after allegations swirled that she had copied the Britney Spears song “Do Somethin’.”
“My music is different from [Spears’ music],” Lee said at a press conference. “As a pop singer, I follow big musical trends. If funky music is trendy these days, I’ll sing it, even if I sound like Britney.”
“I don’t care much about what people say about me,” she added.
Not long afterwards, however, the Korean branch of Universal Music Publishing, which distributes Spears’s albums in Korea, took action: The company announced that it had sent a copy of Lee’s song to Murlyn Songs, a Swedish music licensor that owns the rights to “Do Somethin’.” The licensor allegedly responded that the songs were too similar to be a coincidence.
Murlyn Songs reportedly asked the four songswriters of “Do Somethin’” to study Lee’s song. The reply, as stated by Cho Gyu-yeong, head of the Korea branch, said, “More research would be needed from a professional musical analyst,” but that while they could not be sure it was plagiarism, “it included some parts that could easily justify such suspicions.”
Mr. Cho added the company had decided to send a copy of the song to Sweden because so many people had asked whether they thought Lee had plagarized Spears.
Both songs used fast techno beats and heavy percussion. The choruses also both have raps and the melodies are similar. Spears chants, “You gotta do somethin’”; Hyo-lee chants “I'm gonna get ya.”
Hyo-lee and her agency, DSP Entertainment, denied all accusations.
“‘Do Somethin’’ is a pop song known around the world,” said a staff member at DSP, when asked whether the writer was familiar with Britney's song beforehand. “You can't say the songwriter and the singer had never heard of [Spears’s] song before ‘Get Ya’ came out.”
Lee Jong-hwa, a DSP department head, explained, “Korean pop songs all originate from American pop. It’s a common practice for Korean writers to get ideas and samples from foreign songs.” He said this is why so many Korean songs sound similar to American songs.
But he admitted that the producers and Kim Do-hyeon, the songwriter of “Get Ya,” certainly liked Britney Spears and that they wanted Hyo-lee's new song to have a similar sound.
“We listened to ‘Do Somethin’’ together and were inspired to create a Korean version of that,” Mr. Kim said.
Though legal proceedings have yet to begin, Lee’s Korean fans seem to be deserting her. One message posted on Lee’s Web site, for instance, stated, “Do producers think we’re dumb enough to listen to a plagiarized song and say we still like it?”
Another Internet user wrote that Hyo-lee was a “scapegoat in the pop world, while everyone else managed to get away with it.”
Lee is far from the first Korean performer to be accused of plagarism. Baby Vox, a Korean female dance quintet, was also accused of plagarizing 2 Pac Shakur, an American rapper. But the music companies avoided a court battle, and at the time plagarism was a foreign concept to Korea.
Some say a solution to the problem is not as complicated as it appears. “We could create a group of legal professionals to deal with plagiarism in the entertainment business,” said Song Gi-cheol, a pop music critic. “But that would be the second best policy.”
His implication: The best policy would be to write original songs.
by Lee Min-a