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‘Baby Shark’ case plaintiff to ask for more compensation

Feb 02,2019
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The first hearing of the copyright infringement case against Korean educational brand Pinkfong’s hit song “Baby Shark,” which was scheduled to take place on Thursday, was canceled after the plaintiff, Johnny Only, decided to refile his complaint to a civil court. This time, Only will be demanding a greater amount of compensation.

“[Only decided that] the [original] compensation he demanded, which was five million won [$4,474], was not enough, and there were some procedural problems when he tried to demand 30 million won as collateral litigation,” Only’s lawyer Chong Kyong-sok said. “Only has decided to refile the complaint to the civil court after the Lunar New Year holiday.”

The conflict over the song’s copyright issue comes after Only, whose real name is Jonathan R. Wright, filed a complaint to the Seoul Central District Court on Oct. 22 last year against SmartStudy, the Korean educational company that owns Pinkfong.

According to Only, he is the originator of the song “Baby Shark.” Although “Baby Shark” is a song that is well known in the West, Only claims that he is the first one to have performed the song using only child-friendly lyrics, using specific phrases like “mommy shark” and “baby shark.”

SmartStudy, on the other hand, claims that their song - which is currently taking the West by storm - is not plagiarized from Only’s version because it is a remake of the original summer camp favorite. According to the company, they simply rearranged and remade the song into their own unique version.

The issue at the upcoming hearing would be whether Pinkfong’s “Baby Shark” is plagiarized from Only’s version of the song or is a derivative of the original. The decision will depend on whether Only’s version contains his “creative expression” that is separate from the original and, if so, whether Pinkfong copied off that specific expression.

Under Korea’s Copyright Law, a work is considered original if it involves the songwriter’s creative expression and a derivative work only has copyright over that specific expression.

Amid the ongoing conflict between the two parties, the stock price of Samsung Publishing - a Korean-based company that owns 25.03 percent of SmartStudy and Pinkfong - experienced a drastic downfall on Thursday, when it fell 4.84 percent (900 won) from the previous day.

On Thursday afternoon, the stock was traded at 17,750 won.

BY YEO YE-RIM [yeo.yerim@joongang.co.kr]