North Korean Study Confirms It: People Will Share, Whatever The Risks

from the fact-of-life dept

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the ever-increasing storage capacity of portable hard drives made it unlikely that the sharing of music could ever be stopped. That was a somewhat theoretical piece based on general trends in technology; but here’s some supporting data from a rather unusual source: North Korea (aka the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” – DPRK).

It comes in the form of an extensive study entitled “A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment” (pdf). It’s long but really worth reading for the insights it gives into a world that has been almost entirely hidden from the West for half a century. Rather surprisingly, it shows the impact that the physical sharing of pirated materials from South Korea and elsewhere is having on the once isolated nation. As TorrentFreak puts it:

With Internet unavailable to all but a tiny percentage of the elite, citizens of North Korea are obtaining their information through other means, notably file-sharing devices such as DVDs, MP3 and MP4 players, and USB drives.

The vast majority of those music and video players are owned by young people:

“About 70-80 percent of people that have MP3/4 players are young people,” a 44-year-old male who left DPRK in 2010 reports. “When you do a crackdown of MP3/4 players among high school and university students, you see that 100 percent of them have South Korean music.”

That’s significant because the penalties for anyone caught with forbidden music and videos are severe: months or even years in a North Korean prison camp. TorrentFreak makes the obvious connection:

despite the massive risks, young people in the DPRK are apparently prepared to defy the regime by consuming unauthorized media anyway, something they have in common with the US youth who share files in the face of $150,000 statutory damages.

That explains why the copyright industries’ current approach to enforcement isn’t working, and — more importantly — why it will never work, no matter how harsh the penalties become. Whatever the risks, people will carry on sharing.

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Comments on “North Korean Study Confirms It: People Will Share, Whatever The Risks”

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Wally (profile) says:

Generation wars

Understanding technology is only the beginning of things to come. It’s very difficult to explain the advancements of technology to baby boomers now a days. The Presiddent of the RIAA once Stated “CD’s are not digital”, and it goes to show you how behind they are.

North Korea’s story is interesting to me because on one side, you have the younger generation taking risks, while the elders, who are a part of the regime, didn’t even have a translatable word from English meaning “Computer”. Computers were not in the North Korean Dialect for many years. If there was going to be a modern day “Russian Bulchivck Revolt”, North Korea is where it’s going to happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: FTFY

This, ever so hard. My parents are in their 60’s, divorced since I was 2. Here’s the technological tracks they have taken:

Dad: Got his first computer when I was in high school for work, has over the years asked me to show him how to do a number of things, had me build/help him pick out new computers here and there, and generally never asked the same question twice. Will never be a pro, but certainly knows his way around enough to communicate, shop, research, and share anything he wants. Has high-speed internet at home, a smart phone, and is happy with it all.

Mom: Her recent breakthrough is she stopped breaking out in a cold sweat every time she was sat in front of a computer. She was dragged kicking and screaming into using one about 10 years ago at work and after numerous years, can proudly proclaim that she can get in and out of the screens she needs. If she gets lost, she closes everything and starts over. She has never and will never own a computer (or anything like a smart phone which is really a computer). She has a hand-written list of instructions on how to use the DVD player, which she does maybe once every couple of years (proven by the levels of dust on the instructions every time I see them).

A lot of old people (and young, projecting on old) like to blame age on an inability to pick up new things. That’s BS, that’s called laziness, not age. If you keep an open mind and enjoy learning, you’ll keep learning, it’s that simple.

It’s the same idiocy that leads to every generation thinking the next generation’s music is awful and theirs was amazing. No, your music wasn’t that good. No, this music isn’t that bad. It’s just different and if you were open-minded, over a sufficiently long period of time (10 years or so, to avoid times where yea, sometimes music just sucks for a while), you will find the same amount of good new music as old.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: FTFY

I’m a baby boomer.I bought my first computer in 1981.Was online with a 300 baud modem in 1982. Bought my first laptop and pocket computer in 1986 and have continued to evolve with computers every since.
When I told my dad about computers he had a blank stare and just couldn’t comprehend it. He was a carpenter and far from lazy.But if I wanted to talk about what he knew about carpentry he would light up!
Are kids lazy because they don’t have an interest in math in high school? Or science?
I’m a Senior and don’t have an interest in learning quantum mechanics.Guess I’m lazy…
If people are interested in something they will learn it.
Some people are just to stupid to learn about human nature before calling everyone lazy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: faith in humanity restored

Yeah, I operate on the assumption that 85-90% of humanity are basically moral people, with a sense of fairness and some conception of enlightened self-interest/self-sacrifice for the greater good.

Sure, people don’t always agree about exactly where the lines are, and I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t tried to game some system (usually because they feel that it’s unfair, like laws against drug use). But if I thought that the majority were self-centred assholes who were always out for #1, I don’t think I’d be able to get out of bed in the mornings, let alone hold down a job…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I’d guess that like the US, the risk of consequences is almost nil.”

Right. Let’s compare:


1. Be sued for copyright infringement
2. Go to court. Present your case. Probably get convicted (depends on evidence)
3. Pay a fine
4. Carry on with life

North Korea:

1. Get fingered by government-controlled “police” force for copyright infringement
2. Get summary judgement by local official
3. Most likely get tossed to prison camp (depends on official’s mood, not on hard evidence)
4. Eventually exit prison camp, if not killed along the way (by guards, other inmates, dysentery…)

Yeah, you’re right. It’s about the same.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

none of which addresses the Risk of being Caught, only the consequences if you Are.

further, while the N.Korea situation is more extream, in either case, the consequences if you are caught are rather radically out of line with the actions they’re meant to punish.

and your 3 for the US is often irrelevant and 4 plain wrong, as the legal system itself will pretty much wreck most people if they’re dragged into it.

there’s actually something to be said for a legal system where the other guy can’t win by simply Outlasting you. (though this assumes reasonable laws, competent enforcement, and fair judges… nice ideas, but the thought that such a circumstance is even vaguely likely to come about, let alone remain so, is pretty much laughable.)


Re: How long until it reads

The article stated that when there was a crackdown of mp3 players forbidden music was found on 100% of them. So did the cops send the entire student body to prison camps? I don’t doubt that the NKs would be that stricts but somehow it doesn’t seem like they would go that route. They need the kids to become future soldiers and workers. My guess is that the kids are punished but not by years of incarceration. NK is such a crappy country that we tend to believe any story about their government being cruel regardless how unlikely it is.

Anonymous Howard says:

No no NO! You, Pirate Mike, and the rest of the freetard pirates have come to the exact WRONG conclusion.

Clearly this means North Korea is even worse off than China. These are pirates with no fear. If these young techno-wizards can pirate music when they don’t even have an Internet connection, then imagine the IP theft these people will commit if they ever have an Internet connection! They’ll make the already overwhelming, government-directed hacking from China look like a drop in the bucket (which is, incidentally, all our American innovators and artists have left).

The message this report sends is too obvious to overlook – our American industries are not just in need of drastically tighter cybersecurity, but rather overarching cyberinstitutions that can cyberdefend our cyberinformation from cyberinfiltration from cyberterrorists.

just supposing says:

longing for the good old days

That explains why the copyright industries’ current approach to enforcement isn’t working, and — more importantly — why it will never work, no matter how harsh the penalties become. Whatever the risks, people will carry on sharing.

Maybe those who have nothing to lose will be willing to risk it all, but what of those who have families, resposibilities.. are we to fall apart at the seams as a nation over file sharing?

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