Seoul, South Korea

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” Caught in a Copyright Tug Of War

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” Caught in a Copyright Tug Of War
Photo Credit: YG Entertainment

By Janine Bower | September 10, 2012

After the world got swept into that addictive, viral video called “Gangnam Style,” of course everyone wanted a piece of Psy‘s rising international acclaim. Soon after receiving an overwhelming response for his mega-hit video, a litany of celebrities jumped on board to show their love of Psy’s moves, style and sound. And now, as it passes the 131 million views mark, it seems that Psy’s ‘unique’ style is up for grabs by a collection of interested parties currently vying for media rights. Sigh…this is going to be interesting.

It all started with Psy’s classic horse dance, which galloped into our hearts with simple, yet recognizable choreography. Various celebrities in and out of the K-pop scene showed off their own “Gangnam” gallop, and tweeted about the infectious tune. A variety of internet sources picked up on the phenomenon, like CNN, ABC News, TIME and The Wall Street Journal. “Gangnam Style” was even officially cataloged in the Cheezburger Network’s “Know Your Meme” database as an official “thing” on the internet. Psy and his hilarious antics became an internet phenomenon.

Of course, that much recognition on the international music scene for a budding Korean artist is a good thing. But some are clearly trying to profit from Psy’s “Gangnam” popularity. And YG Entertainment, Psy’s official label, is not too happy about that.

Last Friday, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) said that nine separate trademark requests came in from various companies, all looking to own the rights to “Gangnam Style’s” name. Among them of course is YG Entertainment, who claims their stake in the matter is “undisputed,” and warns that “anyone who takes advantage of the name to make money” will face legal action. YG has already put a German online shopping company in check, requesting that they stop selling a t-shirt that reads, “Keep Calm and Gangnam Style.” And since “Gangnam Style” has already conquered the net, who knows what other sensation-savvy companies have already illegally copyrighted “Gangnam Style” for profit?

The KIPO made note that they grant usage of copyrights based on a variety of factors, the most important of which, is time. But before YG was even hip to how popular “Gangnam Style” would become, one of the nine rivals YG currently faces had already submitted a patent request to the KIPO sometime in August. So far, a restaurant, a software developer, an office automation firm and even the manufacturers of golf-related products and climbing gear, have all filed copyright claims with regard to the song with the KIPO.

Does that mean YG will be losing all of its rights to “Gangnam Style?” Will we be seeing “Gangnam Style” merchandise in our nearest shopping malls sometime soon? Only time will tell in this battle of the patents. So be sure to stay tuned for more updates.

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