Netizens crack down on plagiarism scandals plaguing K-pop world

A scene captured from MBC entertainment program “Infinite Challenge” shows hip-hop artist Primary (left) and comedian Park Myung-soo.

The recent charges of plagiarism involving local hip-hop artist Primary has brought the Korean music industry's notorious past and ongoing allegations of plagiarism to the fore.

Many are now questioning how these accusations will impact the future of the industry.

Thanks to the infinite capabilities of the Internet, netizens have been exposing supposed plagiarism.

"As bad as an accusation of plagiarism can be, the resolution of plagiarism in Korea might actually be far worse," said one industry insider. "A false claim can seriously damage a person's career while a true claim can be very difficult to collect any sort of financial damages for."

The single "I Got C" was produced by Primary along with comedian Park Myung-soo for the newly released album "Jayuro Music Festival" by the members of popular MBC variety programme "Infinite Challenge." The single became a big hit, topping the local real time music charts.

However, soon after the song's release, netizens revealed that Primary's track, along with several other tracks previously produced by the artist, bore striking resemblances to songs produced by David Schreurs. Schreurs produced Dutch singer Caro Emerald's "Liquid Lunch," from which the Korean hip-hop artist is accused of lifting the melody.

"These days, there are more and more overseas producers, composers and songwriters expressing interest working with Korean music artists," said the industry insider. "Although such international collaborations are becoming more commonplace in the industry, any time a high profile plagiarism case emerges, it never looks good."

The K-pop industry is no stranger to copyright infringement allegations, with some of the most notorious cases involving some of the nation's biggest acts, including Big Bang leader G-Dragon and solo diva Lee Hyori. This year alone Primary is merely joining a list of other stars such as IU and Roy Kim, whom netizens have accused of having tracks that sound far too similar to other artists' work.

Netizens have raised plagiarism allegations against K-pop star IU's lead track "The Red Shoes" from her recently released third studio album "Modern Times." They claim the track sounds strikingly similar to German duo Nekta's "Here's Us," an electro-jazz pop track released in 2009. Some netizens went as far as to compile a YouTube comparison clip of the two songs played back to back, with others even overlapping the tracks so listeners could hear them simultaneously, highlighting the similarities.

Earlier this year Superstar K4 winner Roy Kim also found himself swept in a sea of plagiarism controversy surrounding his debut single "Spring Spring Spring," which spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100. Online communities began posting comments after the single was released in April, accusing Kim of plagiarizing indie singer Acoustic Rain's ukulele version of the song "Love is Canon."

After the news came to light, representatives of CJ E&M made a counter claim stating that it was Kim, in fact, whose work was being plagiarized. It was later revealed that the version of "Love is Canon" was in fact registered with the Korea Copyright Commission nearly one month after Kim's "Spring Spring Spring" was released.

There is also the issue of sampling, a common practice in hip-hop music, and how it differs from plagiarism.

"When you sample something, you're giving credit and getting permission from the original artist before the song is released," said producer Bryan Park with company AMP Media. "Plagiarism is copying someone's song and hoping no one notices or changing the song so that no one will notice. Sampling is, from the beginning, giving credit to the original artist and getting permission. It's all about credit and permission."