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Seoul, South Korea - When James Stevens wrote a song with a friend at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, he dreamed that it would become a masterpiece that would enable him to sit back and enjoy the steady stream of royalties that would flow in for years to come.
That was the dream, but the reality was that the song was largely ignored in the United States and even went out of print.
Years later, Stevens discovered to his delight that the song was widely popular among Christians in Korea. To his horror, he realized that it had been used without permission.
The more time he spent on the internet looking for his song, the more uses he found. From hours of looking at online shopping malls and Christian websites, so far he has found that his anthem has been used on over 115 CDs. Also "Without Love...We Have Nothing" has been used in ringtones, e-greeting cards, on radio and television, at wedding ceremonies and has been widely performed.
The song has been popular among Christians since the late 1990s, but Stevens is yet to receive any royalty payments for the song`s use in Korea.
The lyrics by James Michael Stevens and Joseph M. Martin have been translated into Korean, but the music is used exactly as it was written. Even though it is the same song, it is known here under three titles: "Sarang Obseumyeon" (Without Love), "Sarangeun Yeongwonhane" (Love is Forever) and "Naega Cheonsaui Mal Handa Haedo" (If I Speak with the Tongues of Angels).
"I`ve worked many years as a composer to see a song become as successful as this one, but now it is bittersweet as we have received no benefits. Since a portion of my family`s income depends on my royalties to make ends meet, it is very disappointing," Stevens told The Korea Herald.
Stevens said that someone is making money out of his song, but he doesn`t know who it is.
There are many companies involved, not just for those that have used the song, but separate companies and their international affiliates handle the royalty payments for sheet music, performances and CD recordings.
At the Korea Music Copyright Association, the rights to the song are registered in Stevens` and Martin`s name.
If Stevens was living in a dream world, the record companies would pay KOMCA to use the song, KOMCA would pay Fujipacific Music Korea Inc. - the company that holds the license in Korea - who would pay their international affiliate Peer Music. That company would then hand over the royalties to Stevens` publisher, Shawnee Press.
From the United States, Stevens` case has been passed from Shawnee Press along the chain to KOMCA. When The Korea Herald contacted KOMCA, the matter was referred back up the chain in the opposite direction. Kim Ju-yeon at Fujipacific would not comment and referred it to Peer Music S.E. Asia Ltd. Kenney Shiu of that company said that the matter was being resolved, and it was Fujipacific that was dealing with it.
Shiu said that this wasn`t a special case and it was quite common for writers not to be paid.
For a company to use the song with permission on a CD, it would cost approximately $45 for 2,000 copies.
For now, even though Stevens can sit back and listen to the numerous arrangements of his song, he can only dream of receiving any royalty payments in the near future.
By Jane Cooper and Kim Soo-han