South Korea’s largest entertainment and media company CJ E&M and it’s U.S. extension CJ E&M America are facing a $50 million lawsuit in the United States in what is being called the “largest copyright infringement case of the year.”
The plaintiff, Seoul-based music company DFSB Kollective, claims that it had obtained international distribution rights for over 300 Korean songs by registering with the U.S. Copyright Office on behalf of those Korean artists. In doing so, they held the rights to legally sell music on U.S. digital music stores such as Apple iTunes. However, they claim CJ E&M allows international customers – including those in the United States – to purchase music from their Korean Mnet website at the same batch price as Koreans do, meaning copyright holders’ returns drop as the music isn’t being purchase through those copyrights.
On top of the copyright infringement allegations, the plaintiff has filed a complaint of violating the content management information under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They claim that CJ E&M improperly credited copyrights and altered IRSC codes on songs played utilizing Beats Music streaming service, which was acquired by Apple in 2014. Legal experts say the case is the first ever lawsuit brought against CJ E&M under the DCMA.
However, CJ E&M rebutted the claims, calling the allegations untrue. The company claimed that it discontinued allowing international customers to purchase music from their website in 2011 after discovering an error that had allowed them to do so. In addition, they accused DFSB Kollective of being unhappy with a settlement of a similar lawsuit made in Korean courts in 2012, and are now bringing the case to the United States to get a more favorable outcome.
CJ E&M America filed a motion to dismissed the case, but the motion was rejected. The first court date is set for March 1, 2016 before the California Central District Court, and many former and current executives of the companies are expected to be summoned for testimony.
Meanwhile, Korean artists and musicians have expressed frustration over the illegal distribution of their music, be it in Korea, the United States, or otherwise. Preferring to speak anonymously, one indie artist said, “To them, it’s more about maximizing profits than it is about honoring and protecting the musicians. We can’t do anything to protect our creative licenses.” The artist recently discovered that their music was being streamed on the Beats Music service without their knowledge or consent.