Is Musical Copyrightable in Korea?

Seoul High Court (서울고등법원, equivalent to a federal/state appellate court in the U.S.) made a decision on whether a musical is a protectible subject matter under the Copyright Act of Korea. (May 22, 2007) Case number is 2006 Na 47785 (2006나47785).

The plaintiffs were the producer, the planner, and the director of the successful musical, Singing in the Rain (사랑은 비를 타고). This isn’t a musical version of the famous movie, Singing in the Rain. It’s based on the less famous movie, My Fabulous Baker Boys. (I haven’t seen it.)

The musical is still playing. Below is its poster.

2004_06_13-poster.jpg

Facts of the case is a little complicated. I made a chart to explain the factual relations. See the chart below. Click the thumbnail to see the original sized chart.

facts_of_singing_in_the_rain_img.gif

1. Facts

(1) Stage One: From 1995 to 1999

Three plaintiffs, Original Producer (P1), Original Planner (P2), Original Director (P3), and a Second Producer (Third Party 1) started to make the musical Singing in the Rain (the Musical).

Original Planner made a written contract (Contract 1) with Composer (Defendant 2) for composing music for the Musical.

Original Director made an oral contract (Contract 2) with Scriptwriter (Defendant 4).

Hence, musical and literary parts of the Musical were made by the Composer and the Scriptwriter.

P1, P2, P3, and Third Party 1 ran the Musical from 1995 to 1995. The Musical was commercially successful.

(2) Stage 2: Year 2001

For some reasons, P1, P2, and P3 went out of the picture after the first stage. In 2001, Second Producer (Third Party 1) contracted with Composer and Scriptwriter. Second Producer made a written contract with Composer for arrangement of the original music (Contract 3). Second Producer made a licensing contract with Scriptwriter for the use of the scripts.

Second Producer ran the show for several months in 2001. The Musical was commercially successful again.

(3) Stage 3: Year 2002

Second Producer runs the Musical again in the year 2002. Original Director (P3) comes back into play as director. Composer and Scriptwriter work again as composer and scriptwriter (or granted license to use the music and script).

The opinion of the court does not say anything about contractual relationship between Second Producer and Composer or Scriptwriter. It was irrelevant to the issue before the court.

The Musical was again commercially successful.

(4) Stage 4: Year 2006

Stage 4 was the reason why this case was litigated.

New Producer 1 (Defendant 1) and New Producer 2 (Defendant 2) suddenly have come onto the stage with no prior relationship with any of the parties mentioned above. D1 and D2 contracted with Composer for working as director/composer. They also contracted with Scriptwriter for working as script manager.

So, in Stage 4, none of the plaintiffs were in the picture. D1 and D2 only contracted with the Composer and Scriptwriter.

Hence, P1, P2, and P3 sued D1 and D2 for copyright infringement. They lost at the local court (equivalent to district court in the U.S.) and appealed.

Legal analysis will follow soon.

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