Since 2018, Big Hit Entertainment has been battling a publishing company MGM Media in a lawsuit regarding the violation of publicity rights in the Star Focus Photo-Book “In-Depth Coverage of BTS History”.
At the time, the agency explained that MGM Media’s use of BTS’s portraits and names had not been approved with BTS or the agency in advance.
The use of BTS’s portraits and names within their publication was not approved by us or BTS beforehand, and therefore is illegal, violating our artist’s portrait rights and name rights.
– Big Hit Entertainment
The trials continued until recently, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled in the favor of Big Hit Entertainment.
The Supreme Court found, “These management agencies cast, train, and debut their signed idols while they also direct, produce, and promote contents featuring these idols — which can be seen as the agencies’ investment and dedication of time and money to building and maintaining the reputation, value, and credibility of the idols.” Thus, the Supreme Court declared that the publicity rights for the idols belong to the idols and their management agencies.
When the final decision became posted on the Korean Supreme Court’s official website, all K-Pop idol management agencies welcomed the verdict — as it is “setting the precedent” to all future publicity rights violations. This ruling is expected to protect not only BTS and Big Hit Entertainment, but also all K-Pop idols and agencies from unsolicited third party companies producing counterfeit merchandise and profiting from unauthorized sales.
In the past, “publicity rights” have not been recognized in Korea. Until now, agencies had no actual legal ground to sue manufacturers that are creating “fake” merchandise using the idols’ names and pictures.
Big Hit Entertainment celebrated the huge accomplishment by insisting that it will “continue to respond to all future violations with legal action.” K-Pop fans are also excited to hear the Supreme Court’s fair decision to protect the artists and their intellectual property rights.
- “Good. They’ve been stealing from someone else’s investment of time and money.”
- “Wow, publicity rights sound so obvious though. I can’t believe there hasn’t been a way to enforce it until now.”
- “Go to any bookstore and you’ll find tons of BTS merchandise. There are number of BTS books written by ‘fans’ or whatever. But real fans would never. That’s not how you support an artist.”
- “Oh nice, nice. I’m glad these unrelated third parties don’t get to make money off of idols anymore.”
- “Wait, so it should have been illegal this whole time? But I’ve seen so many BTS stuff out. My friend and I even talked about how weird it is for the agency to be pushing out so many items…”