It’s been a minute since we’ve written about a superstar artist’s involvement in a blockbuster copyright infringement case.
What you’re about to read here might become one of the most-talked about music industry-related legal cases of the year – even if it doesn’t actually involve the alleged infringement of a specific song (as we’ve witnessed in previous high-profile copyright litigation involving the likes of Katy Perry, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, or of course, the infamous Blurred Lines case).
MBW has learned that megastars BTS and their label Big Hit Entertainment (now HYBE) have been sued for copyright infringement over the reality K-pop talent ‘survival’ TV series I-Land, on which BTS made a guest appearance.
The suit was filed in California last Wednesday (April 14) by a Florida-based individual named Bryan Kahn, who the filing says “is engaged in the business of creating and producing television series and audio music”
Kahn claims that his idea for a similar show was “stolen” to create I-Land.
Big Hit-signed K-Pop group ENHYPEN was consequently formed by the seven finalists.
In the filing, Kahn claims that he came up with the idea for a television show called Island Hip Hopping and registered the treatment for the show with the Writers Guild of America East on November 15, 2013.
Kahn then says that after creating the treatment for Island Hip Hopping, he spent “a substantial portion of his time living in Asia” and “studying Asian culture”.
He says he lived there from late 2013 until the middle of 2020.
Based on what Kahn claims was his “vast experience and knowledge gained” while living in Asia, he started preparing for the production of Island Hip Hopping.
While spending time in Manilla in the Philippines, Kahn says he “worked on and shared the idea for Island Hip Hopping with Eric Aguilar”, who was allegedly employed as a manager at Risk Emergency Defense Security Solutions, Inc. in Manilla.
Aguilar, claims Kahn, “verbally and through text message communications, confirmed…that he passed the series treatment of Island Hip Hopping off to Netflix key executive Rita Magnus”.
Adds the filing: “In late 2019, Netflix entered into a multi-year partnership with Defendant CJ E&M for content production and distribution.
“Subsequently, Defendants created a YouTube Series I-Land, a reality television streaming series in which contestants compete for a chance to produce, perform, and sell original music, as well as for a chance to work with Defendant Big Hit.”
The claim, which you can read in full here, states that “in parallel with the creation and launch of the series”, the defendants “garnered a deal with Samsung to run promoted ads during break periods of the YouTube television series featuring BTS and the Samsung S20/5G cellular phone”.
The filing also goes on to list a number of subsequent events which Kahn says are linked to the release of the series.
Those events include a Netflix announcement that it “had entered into an arrangement with Samsung, offering exclusive bonus content to Samsung users” and the announcement of the ‘Big Hit Japan Global Debut Project’, featuring five participants from I-Land “working with new members and a panel of executive and celebrity mentors”.
Kahn also claims that discussions about his ideas between himself and Aguilar, the individual who allegedly passed his idea on to the Netflix exec, “included the possibility of opening an Asian pop culture themed café”.
The filing then alleges that “Aguilar’s cousin, Mrs. Dianne Aguilar, with the help of Defendants, opened a BTS themed café, called The Purple 7 Café”.
Kahn says that he “confronted” Aguilar about “possible infringement” as early as February 27, 2020 and that the last time they spoke was on March 13, 2020, which Kahn says, “was also the same day The Purple 7 Café opened”.
“It is clear that the Defendants have stolen and infringed on multiple occasions, and continue to steal and infringe upon Plaintiff’s protected copyright.”
excerpt from filing
Kahn’s lawsuit eventually claims that “based upon the above-mentioned actions, it is clear that the Defendants have stolen and infringed on multiple occasions, and continue to steal and infringe upon Plaintiff’s protected copyright”.
Adds the filing: “The copyrighted treatment Island Hip Hopping is directly infringed each time Defendants disseminate, distribute and release to streaming, their I-Land 7 series show or music created through I-Land.
“By distributing such streaming series to the public for viewing, with the Samsung ads run throughout the streaming, or by producing and distributing music created through I-Land, Defendants have and continue to materially contribute to the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of the copyrighted Island Hip Hopping series created by Plaintiff.
“Through the actions of Mr. Eric Aguilar, Defendants have been provided actual and direct knowledge of Island Hip Hopping and have directly infringed upon such copyright.
“Defendants’ conduct is causing and, unless enjoined and restrained by this Court, will continue to cause Plaintiff great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money.”
excerpt from filing
Kahn concludes that the defendants (Big Hit, BTS and CJ E&M) “have not acted reasonably or in good faith” in response to his “notices of infringement” and furthermore that the defendants’ “acts of infringement have been willful, intentional and purposeful”.
He is demanding a trial by Jury and seeks to be awarded “damages and Defendants profits” or alternatively maximum statutory damages of $150,000 for each infringed work.
“Defendants’ conduct is causing and, unless enjoined and restrained by this Court, will continue to cause Plaintiff great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money,” states the filing.Music Business Worldwide