Another legal battle against alleged “artist poachers” is ailing the K-pop industry, with an all-out war breaking out between girl group Fifty Fifty, its agency, and the producer.
While the group’s members argue that the agency mistreated them and they want out, the agency for its part blames the group’s producer for trying to “steal” the members and hampering its businesses.
Fifty Fifty has been considered “the little guys’ miracle” when it became the fastest K-pop group to land on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with “Cupid” just four months after its debut last November, and without the backing of a so-called major K-pop agency usually considered a prerequisite for rookie groups’ success.
The four members are still young, with the oldest Keena turning 21 on July 9, Saena aged 19, and Sio and Aran both 18 years old.
The quartet announced Wednesday that they have filed for an injunction on the exclusive contracts with their agency Attrakt earlier this month, citing that the company forced them to work through worsening health conditions in addition to “unclear” payment issues.
The injunction was filed on June 19 to the Seoul Central District Court by attorney Yoo Young-seok of Barun Law LLC. Should the court side with the members, they will be free to sign with different agencies until a higher court says otherwise.
“We have been demanding that Attrakt deal with the many issues that the members have raised, but it has only been publishing press releases that bring down the members’ reputation instead of fixing the problems,” Yoo said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The four members have been taking the initiative despite their young age. They approached us after consulting their parents. But Attrakt has been ignoring their demands, saying its actions are due to ‘a third party’ trying to ‘steal them away.’”
The attorney reiterated that the decision “was unanimously made by the members without any involvement from an outside force,” refuting the agency’s claims.
Attrakt said earlier in the month that an outside party was trying to “poach” its members. The announcement, which was first made on June 23, identified Warner Music Korea and “a certain production company” as the culprits three days later.
Warner Music Korea denied the allegation and threatened to take legal measures against the unfounded rumors, but things took a different turn for the production company.
The name of the production company was revealed on Tuesday when Attrakt announced that it reported girl group producer Ahn Sung-il and his three employees at production company The Givers for fraud and obstruction of business.
The Givers is a content management company that manages intellectual property (IP) in addition to producing albums and managing groups. The company is an external vendor contracted by Attrakt to do production work for and manage the girl group. Ahn is also known by his pen name SIAHN which he uses for making music.
“The Givers delayed the handover of its data [to Attrakt], deleted the company mail account and other data regarding the project [for Fifty Fifty], which is business obstruction, damaging the company’s digital records, fraud, and malpractice in the workplace,” Attrakt said in a statement.
Attrakt also claimed that The Givers also took the copyright ownership of Fifty Fifty’s hit track “Cupid” without informing the agency.
The song, released last February, is registered as having been produced by Ahn, AHIN, and Fifty Fifty member Keena on the Korea Music Copyright Association (Komca) website.
However, AHIN and Keena only participated in writing the lyrics of the song. Ahn took part in producing and arranging the song, but its composers, Swedish producers Adam von Mentzer, Mac Felländer-Tsai, and Louise Udin, also took part in producing and arranging, as stated in the album.
The three composers were omitted from the Komca copyright registration.
“We have found more suspicious actions which may result in further police reports,” Attrakt said.
The Givers has not released a statement as of Wednesday.
The Korea Management Federation (KMF), a coalition of some 350 K-pop managers and agencies, can call for an intermediary meeting upon an agency’s request to work things out before bigger lawsuits are filed. Attrakt CEO Jeon Hong-jun is a member of KMF but has yet to file such a request, according to the federation.
This is the second time this year that a K-pop agency complained of an outsider trying to poach its artists, following a mishap between three members of boy band EXO and their agency SM Entertainment that also took place this month.
Members Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen claimed that SM Entertainment did not provide proper information regarding their payment and forced them into overly long contracts, and demanded their contracts be nulled. The agency refuted their claims and argued that the members were being lured by an outside party.
The two parties worked their differences out and settled 18 days later, with all three members remaining at EXO and the agency.
“The K-pop market has been growing so fast, which means that regulations or codes of conduct have yet to catch up with the changing times,” an official at KMF said. “Cases like these may get even messier if it goes to court, so it’s always best to sit down and talk things out before they get out of hand. But it will take time until a set of rules can kick in.”
To find out more about Fifty Fifty, visit Celeb Confirmed!
BY YOON SO-YEON, CHO YONG-JUN [email@example.com]