Mason Korea and Scalia Law Host Conference on K-Pop and Law

K-Pop continues to captivate audiences worldwide. But K-Pop is more than just entertainment. It is also part of a multi-billion dollar industry that has flourished in particular legal and regulatory environments. A full-day conference at George Mason University, Korea brought together industry, academics, and musicians from around the globe, including Mason faculty from both the US and Korea campuses, to explore how these environments have contributed to the development of a global sensation.

The conference, "The Role of Law and Policy in the Rise of K-Pop and Other Asian Music Genres," was a collaboration among Mason Scalia Law School’s Center for Intellectual Property x Innovation Policy (C-IP2), the Music Ecosystems Institute, and Mason Korea.

The full-day event brought together industry and academic experts from around the globe, including Mason faculty from both the US and Korea campuses. 

“We’re pleased to be hosting this international conference of academics and industry professionals in collaboration with two research centers at George Mason’s Scalia School of Law,” said Robert Matz, Mason Korea Campus Dean, in his opening remarks. “In addition to exploring the business and legal foundations of K-Pop, this conference addresses some of the most difficult questions around intellectual property and what it means to create in the era of artificial intelligence.”

Sean O'Connor, a professor at Scalia Law and the Executive Director of the Music Ecosystems Institute, played a central role in leading the conference. “C-IP2 is thrilled to host this music law conference at Mason Korea, demonstrating the increasing collaboration between George Mason’s US and Korea campuses,” he said. “Investigating topics of music law, IP, AI, and social media in the context of the global phenomenon of K-Pop is critical to the legal, policy, and of course, music communities,” he added.  

"K-pop is one of the most popular young music genres in the world right now,” said Mason Korea global affairs professor and K-pop expert, Gyu Tag Lee, in his keynote address. “Our exploration of K-pop will encompass policy implications, record labels, the influence of social media, and the emerging trend of generative AI, all while delving into its roots in traditional music."

The conference featured five panel discussions. In the first session titled "The Role of Government Policy in the Rise of K-Pop, Mando-Pop, and Other New Asian Music Genres," Sean O'Connor moderated a discussion that included insights from Eric Priest, a law professor at the University of Oregon; Sang Jo Jong, a law professor at Seoul National University; George Hwang, an expert in media law; and Jesse Lu, a professor at the National Chengchi University of Political Science, Taiwan. Together, they explored the factors driving the influence of Asian music genres, with a focus on K-Pop, in Western markets and the strategies employed by states to enhance cultural influence in the East. 

The second session, "Comparing the Eastern and Western Roles of Labels, Publishers, Management, and Unions in East and West," examined the unique roles of Western record labels in contrast to those in Asian nations. Kristi Hwang, Secretary General of the Korean Music Publishers Association (KPMA), led the discussion, which also featured Dwiki Dharmawan, a renowned Indonesian musician. They delved into the distinctive emphasis placed by Asian publishers on talent discovery and development and explored the roles played by publishers and musicians' unions in the region. 

A special fireside chat featured guest speaker Kyu Lee, CEO of Kino33 Entertainment, who shared his experiences in producing Korean media and entertainment content, including his involvement in globalizing K-pop artist Psy’s hit song, “Gangnam Style.”

In the third session, titled "Generative AI and Music Rights," George Mason University professor of computer game design, Sang Nam, served as the moderator. The session included insights from copyright specialist Robert Clarida; KweeTiang Ang, Senior Vice President at Universal Music; Sean O'Connor; and Young-hu Kim, CEO of Qoop. They provided perspectives on issues related to ownership, copyrights, liability for infringement, and the complex interplay of copyrights, publicity rights, and moral rights in the context of musical creations generated using generative AI. 

The fourth session, "Social Media: Benefits and Challenges for the Music Ecosystem," was presented by Professor Serona Elton, Associate Dean at Miami University, and Professor Bhumindr But-Indr, an associate professor at Thammasat University, Thailand. This session explored the impact of social media platforms, particularly TikTok, on the music industry, addressing their role as launchpads for emerging artists and the associated national security concerns. 

The final segment, titled "Traditional Korean and Other Asian Music in Contemporary Society," featured Suzanna Samstag, CEO of Daesung Group and Mason Korea advisory board member, and Laina Rafianti, an intellectual property attorney. They discussed lesser-known Asian music traditions, emphasizing the importance of law and policy in safeguarding and promoting these cultural treasures.