PRS for Music Reportedly Files Formal Complaint Against Korean Streaming Services Over Missing Royalty Payments

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Seoul, South Korea. Photo Credit: Mathew Schwartz

PRS for Music has reportedly filed a formal complaint against Korean streaming services over allegedly missing royalty payments.

Regional outlets including the Korea Herald just recently shed light upon the London-headquartered organization’s reported effort to secure royalties from South Korean streaming services including Kakao Entertainment, Wavve, and Tving.

For reference, Kakao owns the Asian nation’s most popular music streaming platform, Melon, and became embroiled in a licensing dispute with Spotify shortly after the Stockholm-based company debuted in South Korea (without a free tier) in February of 2021. Moreover, KakaoTV offers access to all manner of visual-media programs.

Meanwhile, Seoul’s Wavve is a subscription-based television and film service that, judging by its YouTube promo clips alone, uses a good deal of music in its programming and in promotional clips. Similarly, visual-media streaming platform Tving is operated through a joint venture between CJ E&M, internet giant Naver, and television network JTBC.

Back to PRS for Music’s reported move to obtain additional payments from the companies, though, the Korea Herald indicated that PRS had filed a “petition” with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on Monday, September 5th.

A copy of said petition doesn’t seem to have been released to the public. However, the police report called “for authorities to penalize local streaming platforms for using music without properly paying royalties,” besides maintaining that the alleged underpayment and/or infringement had been occurring “for years” without a full-scale investigation, per the Herald.

Of course, this purported years-long failure to make proper royalty payments doesn’t appear to have compelled PRS for Music to file a lawsuit. It’s unclear whether the entity is considering taking the mentioned streaming services to court, but the organization acknowledged its attempt to collect allegedly unpaid royalties from “some OTT service providers in Korea.”

“It has come to our attention some OTT service providers in Korea have been exploiting the rights in our works for many years without proper licences from KOMCA,” PRS for Music told Digital Music News. “We understand that these services are refusing to take the appropriate music licence despite the approval of the necessary regulations by the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Sport (MCST).

“KOMCA has informed us that, despite their repeated efforts to engage and license OTT operators, the services have failed to take a licence meaning creators, Korean and UK alike, are not remunerated for the use of their works.

“We support KOMCA’s efforts to see OTT service providers appropriately licensed and join them in calling for clarification that OTT operators have a legal obligation to seek a licence from KOMCA and that suitable steps should be taken to ensure the rights of creators are respected,” PRS finished.

On this front, the Korea Herald likewise disclosed that the Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) – which in March inked a deal with Nashville’s Muserk to help collect U.S.-based mechanical royalties – had pushed for legal action against the streaming services in October of 2021.

But the police reportedly closed the case “without recommending charges,” as the platforms at hand didn’t intentionally “violate any copyrights” – an important point, for South Korea’s Copyright Act states that “one must be aware of the infringement to be punished for the charge,” the Herald noted.

Finally, the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office last month reportedly recommended a more comprehensive investigation into the matter; prosecutors reportedly possess far-reaching investigative powers in the nation of about 52 million.