Mnet washes hands of Hyo-ri plagiarism furore

  • Published : Jun 21, 2010 - 17:45
  • Updated : Jun 21, 2010 - 17:45

Controversy-prone K-pop singer Lee Hyo-ri has once again found herself at the center of a plagiarism row.

This time around, criticism might not subside as fast since not one but five tracks from her latest album, “H-Logic,” face plagiarism allegations. 

Lee Hyo-ri
Lee recently acknowledged through her fan website that the accusations from the overseas singers are true. She said her record company, Mnet Media, is cooperating with the plaintiffs to make right what Bahnus Vacuum -- the songwriting group that fraudulently composed the songs in question -- made wrong.

Claims of plagiarism came out less than a week before her album was released in April after several fans reported similarities between tracks from Lee’s album to songs from a number of overseas artists.

The majority of the tracks under scrutiny came from relatively unknown musicians based in Canada.

Lee’s “Bring it Back”; has been paired to the Canadian girl band Cookie Couture’s “Boy, Bring it Back,” “Feel the Same” to Canadian singer Melanie Durrant’s song of the same name; “I’m Back” to “Son Insane,” by Canadian singer Lil Precious; “How Did We Get” to American R&B singer Jason Derulo’s “How Did We”; and “Memory” to British band Second Person’s “The Alphabet Song.”

The original authors of Lee’s copycat tracks reportedly got wind of the songs when copies of the album went viral.

Since the controversy, the 31-year-old singer has faced fierce criticism from fans and the media. But others say Lee isn’t to blame.

One industry veteran thinks a hefty amount of responsibility should fall on Mnet Media.

“Mnet is playing the victim card,” said Bernie Cho, the head of DFSB Kollective, a creative agency specializing in digital music distribution and promotion, whose clients include local K-pop acts like Brown Eyed Girls, Crying Nut, Drunken Tiger and Epik High.

“They have still not put a face behind the guy who green lit the project to go ahead -- that one guy who approved (Bahnus Vacuum’s) involvement in (Hyo-ri’s) album.”

Cho said Mnet -- one of Korea’s biggest television broadcasters of K-pop -- should have set appropriate measures to protect one of their top artists from becoming tangled in such a controversy.

“In Hyo-ri’s case, her previous album had the same problem (with plagiarism), so why there were no safeguards in place to protect her without having to go through deja vu, to me, is just mind-boggling,” he said.

“I don’t know whether Mnet was being dumb or just naive, but if you got burned once before, why go back to the same place again?”

However, Cho said it was also Lee’s own undoing as she has never been in control of her own artistic identity, getting strung around by her management and record label.

“All of this also exposes the fact that she’s an idol -- an entertainer -- not an artist. She’s not writing her own music, she’s part of the manufacturing process,” Cho added.

“(Mnet) has so many talented people at their disposal who have a track record of success so why they decided to choose this road is a mystery to me, especially in light of what happened before,” said Cho. “Why (Hyo-ri) is taking the hit is also mind-boggling to me.”

In 2006, Lee was accused of plagiarizing Britney Spears’ “Do Something” for “Get Ya,” the leadoff single to her sophomore album.

Lee was ultimately forced to withdraw from performing the song and handed over the copyright to its original writer and accuser.

When the recent accusations of plagiarism began circulating, Lee and Mnet Media were reportedly assured by Lee Jae-young, the founder of Bahnus Vacuum, that he and his songwriting group were the rightful composers of the songs -- providing documentation as proof.

An in-house investigation conducted by Mnet found that the evidence provided by Bahnus had been fabricated and have since concluded that two of the six songs were not his original compositions.

Lee Hyo-ri has announced that she is halting all promotions of her latest album and publicly apologized to fans.

Bahnus Vacuum could not be reached for comment and has not released an official response to the accusations.

The group has reportedly disbanded since the case has become widely publicized. 

By Song Woong-ki  (kws@heraldcorp.com)