Right to Publicity Lawsuit in Korea

Stars break new ground in publicity rights case

March 20, 2007 Joonang Ilbo

Seven South Korean movie stars and their management agency, iHQ, are suing a local movie magazine, Screen, seeking a total of 350 million won ($370,880) in compensation for commercially using the stars’ pictures without their permission, according to the Seoul Central District Court.
The movie stars are Jun Ji-hyun, Jung Woo-sung, Kim Sun-a, Zo In-sung, Ji Jin-hee, Cha Tae-hyun and Yang Jin-woo ― leading stars of television and movies, and among the most visible faces of hallyu, the Korean pop culture wave that is sweeping Asian countries.

In their complaint, the movie stars accused the monthly magazine of selling their pictures, taken for interviews with the magazine, on a Japanese Web site where online users pay to download photographs of hallyu stars, according to the court.
“The pictures were taken for interviews with the magazine and the magazine has to acquire permission from the stars and the agency when it uses them for other purposes,” the complaint read. “But the stars and the agency did not authorize their use; thus, the magazine violated publicity rights.”

There is no specific provision in Korean law for publicity rights, or the right to control the commercial use of an individual’s name, image, likeness or voice.
“If the court ignores an infringement of publicity rights, there will be prevalent use of images of celebrities without permission, and compensation will be much cheaper than commercial modeling fees,” read the complaint. Last month, the Seoul Eastern District Court acknowledged for the first time the right of heirs to control the commercial use of images of a deceased person, defining this as a property right akin to a trademark or copyright.

The magazine said it has not yet received the complaint and has no comment on the suit.


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