Negotiations between film, music industries not so H.O.T.

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Negotiations between film, music industries not so H.O.T.

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Box-office hits “Architecture 101,” left, and “Sunny,” right, featured popular K-pop songs from the 1980s and 1990s. Negotiations between the music and film industries over rights and performance fees have broken down, threatening their relationship. [JoongAng Ilbo]


“Architecture 101” and “Sunny” became box-office hits for a number of reasons, but one common theme struck a chord with the Korean public: Both films kicked it back to the hit K-pop songs of the ’80s and ’90s. But unfortunately for nostalgic moviegoers, the music industry isn’t too pleased with the films’ success.

The ongoing dispute traces back to the Korea Music Copyright Association (Komca) and its performance rights policies related to the use of music in films.

The owner of a song has the exclusive rights to that track. Studios must obtain rights from labels, often at a hefty price. Lionsgate paid as much as $250,000 to use a Beatles song in an episode of “Mad Men.”

Similar copyright principles apply in Korea. However, Komca is claiming that the owners of theaters themselves are liable for paying labels directly in order to screen movies that use their songs.

The film industry has rebuffed the move, arguing that such a fee would result in a double charge for theaters, which pay studios to lease films for a set period of time. Studios factor in their costs, including fees to gain the rights to songs, when selling to theaters.

Negotiations began in August 2011, but a number of legal conflicts have emerged since. Komca charged Lotte Shopping and Lotte Cinema for violating copyright laws in November and April. The association then filed a 4.5 billion won ($3.96 million) compensation suit against CJ CGV and Megabox Cinus.

The yearlong negotiations have recently collapsed. The Movie Soundtrack Copyright Committee (MSCC) - composed of members from the Korea Film Production Association, the Korea Cinema Association and the Korea Movie and Video Industry - declared that all songs managed by Komca can no longer be used in films.

The MSCC also insisted that “it is impossible to use the songs trusted by Komca with the current collection plans they suggested” and called on the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to revise the Komca’s requirements on performance fees.

Another issue standing between the two industries is the retroactive application of fees. Komca changed its regulation of film music reproduction and screening in March, limiting permission to the first duplication. If performance fees are retroactively applied according to this regulation, theaters must pay over 10 billion won.

The film industry voiced complaints about Komca’s revision and the ministry is siding with them, but Choi Dae-Jin, head of the distribution department, said “the whole procedure was legitimate.”

The result of the ongoing conflict is the halting of films currently in production. “Producers are facing serious limits on film creation, giving up on using original songs and abandoning projects related to music,” said Choi Hyun-Yong, the secretary general of the MSCC.

“Some 10 to 20 Korean films are currently failing to contract, and this will reach a deadlock on production and premiere schedules. The Culture Ministry should take appropriate actions against Komca’s arbitrary and unilateral tyranny and abuse of its monopolistic position.”

By Yang Sung-hee, Song Ji-hye [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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