Judge rules Fantom plagiarized 'Final Fantasy'

4:00 AM PST 12/08/2007 by Mark Russell, AP

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SEOUL -- A music video created by Korea's Fantom Entertainment Group was found by a Seoul court Friday to have plagiarized the best-selling Japanese video game "Final Fantasy 7" from game maker Square Enix.

Fantom, a leading Korean media company in talent management and film, television and music production, "illegally used 80% of the storyline, setting, characters and their styles of dress and their demeanors from the Japanese video game 'Final Fantasy 7,' " judge Gu Hoe-geun the Seoul Central District Court ruled.

Square Enix says its "Final Fantasy" video game franchise is among the most popular in the world, having sold more than 75 million copies since its inception in 1987.

The court fined Fantom Entertainment 10 million won ($10,900), and slapped penalties of an additional 6 million won ($6,500) each on Lee Han-woo, director of Fantom, and Hong Jeong-ho, the director of the music video.

"This judgment by the Seoul Central District Court is stringent in comparison to other copyright infringement cases in South Korea, and we appreciate that the maliciousness of this infringement has been recognized in a public forum," Yasuhiko Hasegawa, General Counsel for Square Enix, the maker of the "Final Fantasy" series, said. "Square Enix will continue to take decisive action against any infringements upon the company's intellectual property, recognizing that this property is one of our most crucial resources."

Square Enix filed its criminal complaint March 20 after seeing a music video for "Temptation Sonata," by the popular singer Ivy, who is managed by Fantom. The Ivy video strongly echoed a Square Enix animated short derived the "Final Fantasy 7" video game called "Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children."

"This was a good case," said Brendon Carr, an American lawyer based in Seoul. "Foreign copyright holders get worn out making complaints that are usually never investigated. Other Korean entertainers and entertainment companies will need to think more what they do in the future."

A civil suit against Fantom and Hong Jeong-ho seeking damages and other remedies is still under consideration by the court.
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