BTS, HYBE Face Legal Action Over Alleged I-Land Copyright Infringement

BTS Hybe copyright infringement lawsuit
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BTS Hybe copyright infringement lawsuit
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Photo Credit: AJeong_JM / CC by 4.0

BTS and their label HYBE are being sued for copyright infringement by a Florida man.

The lawsuit is over the reality K-pop series I-Land, which is a survival-type show that BTS appeared on. Florida resident Bryan Kahn is suing BTS and their label, saying they ‘stole’ his idea for a show and made I-Land.

Also named as a defendant in the suit is CJ E&M America, the US-based subsidiary of South Korean Entertainment giant CJ E&M. Big Hit created the show through a partnership with the company. I-Land is a reality K-pop series that ran from June to September 2020. It aimed to find the next K-pop stars by putting them through a K-pop boot camp of sorts.

HYBE-signed K-pop group ENHYPEN was formed from the seven finalists on the show.

In the lawsuit obtained by Digital Music News, Kahn claims that he came up with the idea. His television show is called Island Hip Hopping, and he registered the treatment for the show with the Writers Guild of America in November 2013. Kahn says after creating the treatment, he spent a substantial portion of his time living in Asia, from 2013 to 2020.

While spending time in Manila in the Philippines, Kahn says he shared the idea for the show with Eric Aguilar. Aguilar was employed as a manager at Risk Emergency Defense Security Solutions in Manila. Kahn claims that Aguilar “verbally and through text message communications, confirmed that he passed the series treatment of Island Hip Hopping off to Netflix executive Rita Magnus.”

“In late 2019, Netflix entered into a multi-year partnership with Defendant CJ E&M for content production and distribution,” the lawsuit claims. I-Land is the YouTube series in question, “a reality TV 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 HYBE.”

The lawsuit also says the defendants created a deal with Samsung to run promoted ads during break periods, featuring BTS and the Samsung Galaxy S20 phone. Kahn says he confronted Aguilar about the possible infringement as early as February 2020. Kahn says the last time they spoke about it was March 13, 2020.

“Based on 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,” the lawsuit reads. Kahn is demanding a trial by jury and he is seeking damages and defendants profits, or maximum statutory damages of $150,000 for each infringed work.