Is there a legal punishment for disclosing a virtual idol’s personal information? If you enter virtual idol group PLAVE in the search bar of a Korean search site, “bonchae (the real person behind the virtual idol)” appears as a related search term. PLAVE is a virtual idol group that acts as a “virtual character.” The character is an animation-like image, but behind the image is a real human being. Virtual idols act as characters without revealing their identity.
PLAVE attracted attention with the initial sales of over 200,000 copies of their debut album last March and secured a solid fan base. As popularity increased, the number of people curious about who the real person was behind the character also increased.
PLAVE’s agency VLAST, posted an official statement on the official fan club in June regarding this matter.
The disclosure of personal information by PLAVE, who is active as a virtual idol, directly impacts their activities and cannot be overlooked.
The agency believes that the act of “disclosing the actual person” constitutes a violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, infringing on PLAVE members’ rights to self-determination of personal information and VLAST’s trade secrets and interfering with business. It also stated that malicious slander of spreading false information violates the Information and Communications Network Act.
There have been no lawsuits related to virtual idols in Korea yet. There are likely various interpretations as to whether the disclosure of the actual person constitutes a violation of the law announced by the agency.
The agency is actively taking legal action because of the fandom.
The biggest reason is to protect the fandom, which is all for just enjoying the group without being curious about who is behind it. We might consider it if the entire fandom requests to reveal their personal information. However, working with third-party IP is currently a matter of discussion between the fandom, the company, and the members, so we are taking action to protect this.
It is said that there have been hundreds of cases related to personal information disclosure that have been received through monitoring and reporting to date. A Blast official said, “There is no precedent in Korea, but we understand that there are related cases in Japan, where the virtual market is more mature than ours.” They added, “We have recently formed an internal legal team, and we plan to take legal action as soon as possible.”
Netizens that saw this had divided opinions on whether legal action could be taken.
- “But all the fans seem to know who they are though.”
- “I think it’s going to be hard to take legal action.”
- “If they are disclosing it on purpose, isn’t it a disruption of business?”
- “I guess they could take legal action, but because there are no other cases like this yet, it might be hard to receive legal punishment.”
- “I guess it means it’s going to be hard to receive legal punishment.”
- “But all the fans seem to already know.”
What are your thoughts on virtual idols and the rights to the personal information behind the person playing the character?