Korean Karaoke Bars Face Lawsuit in Royalties Dispute

On Nov. 26, the directors of 미동부예능인협회, which translates to the “Korean Entertainment Association of Eastern America,” had a meeting with Charles Yoon, chairman of the board, Minsun Kim (far left), the 35th president of The Korean American Association of Greater New York, and Youn-Jung Kim (tan jacket), a Korean consul in New York, to explain the conflict and ask for help. (Photo from The Korean American Association of Greater New York via The Korea Times)

On Nov. 27, Korean music publisher Elohim EPF USA announced that it will file a lawsuit against the owners of Korean karaoke bars in New York and New Jersey in early December following a lack of progress in negotiating payment of royalties. Several months ago, Elohim said owners were sent a “final notice” warning them that the company would take legal action if the karaoke bar owners did not pay the royalties on Korean songs.

[Editor’s note: In an email to Voices of NY, a senior license manager at Elohim said that so far only two karaoke bars in the New York area had an agreement to pay royalties on Korean songs starting in 2017, and he stated that action will be taken some time in December, or perhaps in January.]

Elohim added that it will first file a lawsuit against nearly 10 karaoke bars located in Flushing, Queens, six to seven in Manhattan, and 10 in New Jersey. The company plans to then file a second lawsuit against additional bars.

[Editor’s note: According to an earlier article in Korea Daily, Elohim won its lawsuit against the owners of Korean karaoke bars in Los Angeles for royalties on Korean songs on Dec. 1, 2014.]

In response, Korean karaoke bar owners have launched 미동부예능인협회 which translates to the “Korean Entertainment Association of Eastern America.”

“No one disagrees with paying royalties on Korean songs,” a member of the association told The Korea Times. “But the song royalties imposed on us are ridiculously expensive so most of us can’t afford to pay them.”

According to the association, karaoke bars in South Korea pay $3-4 per room every month in royalties. Elohim wants karaoke bars in the U.S. to pay $40-60 per room, or more than 10 times the fee in South Korea.

[Editor’s note: According to earlier articles from The Korea Times and Korea Daily, in the notice Elohim sent to Korean karaoke bars owners in the New York area, the company asked for a monthly fee of $50 per room starting in 2016 to cover royalties. Generally, a karaoke lounge has five to 10 rooms so the owner would pay up to $500 every month. It is possible that an owner would have to pay a total of $8,000 to $15,000 because the royalties are backdated to January 2016.]

On Nov. 26, the Korean Entertainment Association of Eastern America held a meeting with directors of The Korean American Association of Greater New York and Youn-Jung Kim, a Korean consul in New York, to explain the situation and receive support.

In the meeting, Gyeong-Hyun Nam, the chairman of the association, said that Elohim has been overcharging Korean karaoke bar owners in New York and New Jersey for royalties on Korean songs. “It is totally unreasonable compared to the royalties which the owners in South Korea pay.”

The association asked the consul to verify whether Elohim is eligible to receive royalties on Korean songs in the U.S.

[Editor’s note: According to The New York Ilbo, Consul Kim said she would confirm whether Elohim has been given the authority to receive royalties for Korean songs in the U.S. from the Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) which is affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. She added: “After that, I might be able to pursue adjustments to improve this situation in terms of fairness.”]

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