Category Archives: copying

Let’s get Dean mad about something else!

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Shame on me, but I’m kind of loving how PISSED Dean is about the bullshit allegation that “Where U At” (from Show Me the Money) is plagiarized from “I’m the One.” These things are basically always crap, of course, but Dean’s been awesomely breaking down every aspect to PROVE exactly how dumb this is.

He keeps posting and deleting to Instagram, so it’s hard to capture this in all its glory. Soompi got most of the first two posts, but they missed the bit where Dean actually spelled out the chord changes (luckily a fan copied this to Twitter)

Dean also posted a video showing the differences between the songs.

Now he’s got another new post up because someone contacted the producer of “I’m the One,” who said (this is an exact quote) “Nope” to the charge.

Go, Angry Dean, Go!

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This is just really weird

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Of course I’d seen the jokes about iKon’s latest comeback being a Block B concept, but I didn’t really think too much about it. But today I finally got around to watching the video, and…OK?

That’s just strange. The lyrics are all about bees, too, which I suppose is just more evidence for anyone who believes that K-Pop is secretly funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

This isn’t just some obscure thing that only fans would know, like, Hey, did you know Park Kyung had that kind of car too? Buzzing bees are in the lyrics of “Very Good,” the yellow-and-black striped honeywand is pretty recognizable, and at this point Block B is really well known in Korea.

It’s not like I think, “Oh, Block B owns black and yellow! And bees!” or anything like that. It just seems that from a marketing point of view you wouldn’t want this kind of brand confusion–you want your group to stand out, not be the group that everyone can’t quite remember because they’re kind of like this other group, but not really.

So it’s a baffler to me why the label would do this to iKon. I was honestly wondering before I saw the lyrics if the imagery in the video was some kind of in-joke between Bobby and Zico. (I guess if Block B’s next song is titled “Iconic,” we’ll know that it was.)

Commercial use

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The YouTube video of “That Song that Sounds a Whole Lot Like ‘Toy'” was pulled down, which seems like a tacit admission that proper protocols were not observed when it was made. And one of the Korean fans has managed to get through to Poptime, so it seems like Seven Seasons is definitely going to know about it.

(Original Tweet here. And thank you!)

The thing that could potentially make this really expensive for the guy is that it’s a commercial release–“TStSaWLL’T'” (a.k.a. “Megafon”) is on iTunes and Amazon and Google Play and Spotify and God only knows what other retail outlets. That makes its a very different creature than a mixtape using an unlicensed sample from “Toy,” which would likely not be a big deal.

Notice something interesting? When it comes to classifying as song as a commercial release, it doesn’t matter if it makes any money. The mere presence of “TStSaWLL’T'” on retail sites is enough to make it a commercial release. Has the song sold not a single copy? Did the guy actually lose money on it? It doesn’t matter.

I have seen this concept repeatedly confound newbie writers. You tell them that they are making a commercial release when they self-publish a book, and they tell you:

  • “I haven’t made any money from this!”
  • “This isn’t a commercial book–it’s literature.”
  • “There’s not a publishing house involved. It’s just me.”
  • “I’m fine if I don’t make money–this is really a passion project.”

Nobody cares!!! Are you putting your work up for sale? Yes? That’s enough! It’s a commercial release now, and nobody gives a fuck about the rest of it.

The thing is that, at least in the United States, the holder of the copyright on something has certain rights regardless of how the property is used–but they often distinguish between what’s called personal use and what’s called commercial use.

So, let’s say there’s some cool clip art out there, as well as some bitchin’ fonts, and you have used these time and time again to advertise your church’s bake sale or your school club or whatever. You never had to pay for any of this artwork, and that was never a problem–you’ve never even had to think about it.

Because you were engaged in personal use.

Try slapping that shit on the cover of something you’re going to sell, and suddenly there’s a whole bunch of problems. There’s all this small print about “commercial licenses,” and if you don’t pay it any mind, lawyers send you nasty letters and you have to pay a bunch of money.

Do I think that kind of slippery-slope thing is what happened here? I have no idea–maybe the dude thought that Korea is so far away that no one could possibly figure out what he’d done! (It’s not like they have the Internet there, right?) (ETA: We know more now.) But a lot of newer artists do kind of have trouble wrapping their brains around the fact that the arts are commercial–these are businesses and industries, and you can’t get away from that no matter how bohemian or small-time you are.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a commercial artist, if you’re putting it up for sale, the law thinks that you are one–and it’s important to know that.

That does sound familiar, doesn’t it?

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Hmmm…..

It could be that both artists simply used the same sample, which is totally kosher if they both paid for the rights for it. And even if the dude just sampled “Toy” without permission, which is not legal, it may not be worth Seven Seasons’ time to shut him down. But given that the German song was released seven months after “Toy,” I wouldn’t be shocked if there was some, shall we say, inspiration there.

ETA 5/13/17: According to this (via @Veryhensemguy)

The guy bought the beat here thinking it was legit. Of course, now that he knows it’s not legit, he’s not taking it down, because logic!

Banging my head against the wall (to a plagiarized beat)

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One of the morbidly fascinating things about following Block B has been watching how many of the accusations that used to be made against the group back when they were less popular are, now that Block B is more popular, being made against other musicians who are comparatively less popular.

The big accusation that used to be made was that the group was imitating BigBang–Zico was imitating G-Dragon, P.O was imitating TOP, etc. Then as Block B became more popular, That Jooheon Kid was accused of sounding exactly like Zico, even though he totally doesn’t.

Now–and I guess this is a bit of a milestone!–we are getting into the land of completely bizarre plagiarism accusations. Of course Zico used to be on the receiving end of these–he once had to explain how it’s not plagiarism if two people both use samples that they paid for. (At least he didn’t have to explain that parody is not plagiarism, although I’m sure one day he probably will.)

Today he had to explain that the fact that two songs happen to be pretty is not plagiarism.

You think I’m joking? You think it was some kind of soundalike, and Zico is just being nice again?

Here’s “Be the Light”:

Here’s “Because You’re Pretty”:

(I may have to buy that.)

Anyway, I guess this is just what happens when you move up the ladder, but honestly, it’s like watching a wolf pack or something, where everyone kowtows to the Alphas and chews on the Omegas.

Copying vs. copyright infringement

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The latest copying brouhaha involves Block B, so I thought I’d talk a bit about copying vs. actionable copyright infringement that you can actually sue somebody about. (Kpopalypse has done several posts about copyright that apply specifically to music: Go here and follow the links.)

I’m going to start by pointing out that 1. I am not a lawyer, and 2. the copyright laws I am familiar with are U.S. laws, which can be very different from laws in other countries. So why bring this subject up at all, if all I have is a layman’s knowledge of laws that may well not actually apply to Korea? Because U.S. copyright law (and U.S. civil law in general) is very focused on the notion of damages. What are damages? The actual impact someone’s misbehavior has caused you. If someone did something wrong, but it didn’t hurt you in any meaningful, material way, you cannot sue in the United States.

Even if damages aren’t key to the law in other countries, everybody takes them into account. If something doesn’t cause you significant harm, why would you go to the trouble of going to court about it? You hopefully have better things to do with your time! So, Block B lets things that might be actionable in Korea slide, because why bother?

With copyright law, one of the key questions courts look at when attempting to determine if sufficient damages have taken place is, Will people buy this thing instead of the thing made by the copyright holder?

If the answer is yes, then you are in trouble. For example, if you write under the pen name “Steven King,” and your novels include the horror titles Coju, Carri, and Pet Cemetery, chances are very good that you will have to give any the money you made (plus punitive damages) right back to Stephen King.

If the answer to that question is no, then you can’t get sued. This is why parodies are legal. It is extremely unlikely that someone will see something like this:

and regard it as equivalent to reading the 50 Shades of Grey book or seeing the movie. The Korean SNL skit isn’t cutting into 50 Shades of Grey‘s audience, so they’re not damaging E.L. James’ revenues, so she can’t sue (or maybe legally she can, but she’s not going to bother).

So, let’s look at this Twice copying Block B issue.

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Now, there’s been some back-and-forth because the idea of having someone show through torn paper is nothing new (and indeed those kinds of vague concepts can never be copyrighted). I personally do think that the two album covers are similar enough that, were I an executive at Twice’s label, I would be asking some pretty pointed questions of the graphic designer.

But none of that really matters. The question that matters is, Is Twice cannibalizing sales of the Japanese edition of H.E.R? Are people confusing this:

with this?

Uhhh…I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that the answer to that question is no. I’m going to anticipate that Seven Seasons will not take legal action on this one. (And it’s not like they’re afraid to!)

Pann & Park

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So, I feel kind of dumb for blogging about this latest stupid mixtape “controversy,” because it’s stupid, but in case you haven’t heard it, Zico released this:

Which rips into idol rappers who use his name to get media attention (B on the Block translation here).

(No, I don’t have the mp3 on BlockB.com–if I find it, I’ll put it up, but it’s not out there right now for some reason. ETA: It’s up now.)

Whoopdie-fucking-do, right? Oh my God, a rap song in which a rapper insists that he is superior to other rappers! I may perish from the shock of it!!!

But of course the whole Pann->Netizen Buzz->English-language K-Pop press thing happened. It turns out that the idiots on Pann are totally sure that Zico’s mixtape is specifically dissing that kid from Monsta X (Jooheon, apparently)–Zico’s not just making some general commentary or dissing Bobby or something: It’s that damned Jooheon kid again!

How sure are they? REALLY, REALLY SURE.

2. [+151, -8] Even if you’re an idol rapper, you should have your own rap style. I get that fans of Monsta X want to say that there are subtle differences but it just sounds like Zico himself is featuring on that group’s songs….

6. [+62, -2] That Jooheon kid really does need to change his rap style. Everyone who listens to his rap can tell right away that it’s a copy of Zico’s. I thought it was a Zico featuring at first too. Instead of complaining about the public’s perception of him, he needs to work on getting some individuality. His fans are always going on about how how skilled he is but his rapping was disappointing after his debut….

10. [+43, -1] That Monsta X’s Jooheon kid’s rap style is way too similar to Zico’s. I was listening to their song earlier and it pretty much sounds like a Zico feature ㅋㅋㅋ

Now, I’ll confess that I tried listening to “Trespass” when it came out, but I didn’t like it, so I stopped. But these Pann folks were so certain–That Jooheon Kid sounds so much like Zico they thought that’s who it was!–that I figured I’d listen to the whole thing.

I still don’t like the song, and yes, I blame the dipshits on Pann for the fact that I wasted 3 minutes and 45 seconds of my life listening to a song I don’t like.

Why am I so annoyed? That Jooheon Kid doesn’t sound like Zico! Jesus fucking Christ, I knew these people were stupid, but are they hearing-impaired as well?

I will say that I think That Jooheon Kid sounds like Taewoon, but one of the nice things about Taewoon is that he sounds nothing like his brother–he’s his own artist, he’s not Zico Lite.

So, now that we’ve gotten objective reality out of the way as a possible motivation for these Pann nutjobs, what’s left?

Bullying and trolling, of course!

And that’s why I think they’re going after That Jooheon Kid, instead of one of the many, many other idol rappers Zico could have been referring to, or idol rappers as a class. That Jooheon Kid is new, which makes him the lowest in the pecking order (and boy do those Pann chicks love to peck!), and he made the tactical error of apologizing when initially bullied. (I will refer you to Kpopalyse for advice on how to better respond to bullies.)

Hang in there, That Jooheon Kid! In a few years, the assholes on Pann will ripping into some other new kid because they “think” he sounds like you!

ETA: Oh, of course, That Jooheon Kid is also on Show Me the Money 4. Gee, I wonder how many of those Pann “netizens” work for Mnet….

* * *

The other thing that’s been coming up with this mixtape is that Zico says that he and Jay Park changed people’s ideas of what idol rappers could achieve.

And that’s been getting a lot of, “Huh?” from people, which always seems to be the case whenever anyone suggests that Jay Park may have a thought or two in his head, or may have accomplished something worthwhile with his life.

Now, I realize that Jay Park has an image that could most diplomatically be described as “carefree.”

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I thank God every day for Jay Park’s Facebook feed. And yes, he’s drunk.

But the fact of the matter is, Jay Park has done something pretty remarkable. Obviously there was his rise as a solo artist following the Myspace debacle, which would be impressive enough if that was all he did. But the whole founding and running of AOMG? That’s really above and beyond.

I was an early fan of the VV:D crew (thanks to Park Kyung, who turned me on to Crush with “Getting Over“), and I liked them so much that I wanted to do a VV:D.com (however one would style that) just like I did BlockB.com.

But the problem was, there wasn’t anything out there about them, especially not in English. I had no way to get started, because these guys were just too obscure.

Fast-forward two years–just two years!–and people like Loco and Gray have had hit after hit. With a new label, nonetheless.

It’s one of the things that people don’t seem to recognize about Jay Park: He knows how to market independent music. He is very, very good at it, and that’s something a lot of people who are very talented in a lot of ways don’t do very well.

Yes, I’m sure he has help and all that, but he keeps chalking up wins. As a CEO. At some point, the whole argument that he’s just some airhead Twinkie fuckboy with bad tattoos needs to die.