HYBE, the agency representing BTS, has sent a warning to the operator of the military service communication platform The Camp for unauthorized use of images and names of BTS members who are currently serving in the military. The agency has cited infringement of publicity rights and is considering legal action. Publicity rights refer to the right to economically benefit from one’s likeness and name.
As reported by Newsis on January 8th, HYBE recently discovered that The Camp had been using images and names of BTS members without permission from the artists or HYBE’s label, Big Hit Music, and demanded immediate cessation.
The Camp, a mobile app and internet site, allows families and friends to send online letters to military trainees. The app, which formed a partnership with the Korean Army right after its launch, has become a key communication service for the military.
The issue arose when The Camp was found using BTS’s intellectual property without permission. Specifically, The Camp had created individual communities for BTS members, even using the term “Official,” which HYBE views as an infringement of its official fan community operation rights.
Moreover, The Camp Mall sold “soldier name tags” attachable to dolls, blatantly using the real names of BTS members. These dolls were sold at a high price of 56,000 KRW (approx. 43 USD) each. The agency asserts that an artist’s name is also part of their intellectual property.
In fact, BTS fans initially raised concerns over the unauthorized use of BTS members by The Camp. Fans expressed discontent, suggesting a boycott, with comments like “Are they doing business with enlisted celebrities?” and “I really hate they’re using BTS and ARMY (BTS’s fandom) for their profits.”
Following HYBE’s protest, The Camp removed related posts and stopped selling the artist’s name tag packages. However, the BTS community continues to operate, sans the “Official” designation. The Camp claimed the community was spontaneously created by fans, not the company.
HYBE is considering legal action against The Camp. “Using the IP of enlisted artists for free shakes the foundation of the entertainment industry, which invests heavily in discovering and nurturing artists,” HYBE firmly stated. They criticized, “Being a startup does not excuse such actions,” adding, “This shows their intention to continue benefiting from the publicity effects relying on BTS’s fandom, a cunning ploy and a clear case of freeloading.”
The Camp has yet to issue an official statement regarding this controversy.