Court Sides With Big Hit Entertainment In Appeal Hearing About BTS’s Portrait Rights

On May 30, the Seoul High Court (head judge Hong Seung Myun) made their decision in the appeal hearing that Big Hit Entertainment filed against Mr. Jung, the publisher of a monthly entertainment magazine.

Big Hit Entertainment filed an injunction against Mr. Jung to stop him from publishing the magazine. The magazine had featured an extensive amount of photos and articles about BTS in their January, June, and November 2018 issues, as well as their March 2019 issue.

The agency argued that this magazine was functioning more like a pictorial or photobook than an entertainment magazine and that the photos, having been published without due notice, were violating BTS’s exclusive rights to their image.

The magazine argued that their activities fell under the scope of legal media reporting and that the injunction was therefore invalid.

The High Court’s decision to partially approve Big Hit Entertainment’s injunction is different from the decision handed down by a lower court in the case’s first trial.

In that first trial, the court ruled, “Although the magazine publisher had a commercial profit in mind, it is difficult to say that this violated the agency’s interests since the magazine is saying that it devoted a lot of space to BTS, which is a very popular group, with the goal of satisfying the public’s desire for knowledge about them.”

The High Court made a different decision in the appeal hearing, stating, “The entertainment magazine did not publish photos and articles about BTS within the scope of normal media coverage, but instead published and sold their magazine like a pictorial or photobook in order to get more money from customers who would find this attractive.”

As part of the evidence for this decision, it was cited that the magazine had filled more than half of its pages with articles and photos related to BTS. Including the cover, there were 108 pages in total, with 45-65 being related to BTS.

The High Court stated that this was excessive, since most other entertainment magazines featuring BTS had used less than 10 pages to cover them. The High Court also noted that about 20 pages in the magazine contained only photos, without any articles, and stated, “It is difficult to say that this was about legal media coverage on BTS’s activities like entertainment magazines are allowed to do.”

The court continued, “If your coverage and use of photographs is far in excess of the scope of legal media coverage, then it is common business practice to get permission from the agency to use the artist’s images. This magazine was selling its issues like a photobook and did not get permission from the agency to do so.”

It concluded, “It is highly probable that this was illegal activity that infringed upon the financial interests of the agency by using BTS’s name and photos without permission for commercial profit. We do not see that the publication of this magazine falls under the scope of the freedom of the press.”

Mr. Jung is not allowed to produce, duplicate, sell, export, or distribute copies of his magazine without removing the sections with BTS’s photos. If he does not comply, he will be fined 10 million won ($8400) per day. However, the court decided that the magazine was not banned from using BTS’s name in its issues in the interest of legal media coverage.

Big Hit Entertainment has previously announced they were taking legal action against various companies, particularly MGM Media, for the violation of BTS’s portrait rights.

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