South Korea Considers Dumping Draconian Copyright Law Forced On It By The US

from the all-in-it-together dept

As Mike noted a couple of days ago, international trade agreements often have the effect of constraining the power of national legislatures. Indeed, that’s doubtless one of the reasons why they have become so popular in recent years: they allow backroom deals between politicians and lobbyists to set the agenda for law-making around the world, without the need for any of that pesky democratic oversight nonsense. In particular, the trade agreement between South Korea and the US is turning out to be a key limiting factor for both TPP and what US politicians might try to do about phone unlocking. This makes two recent moves to loosen South Korea’s harsh copyright laws potentially important far beyond that country’s borders.

The first concerns a report by the National Human Rights Commission of South Korea on human rights in the digital age. Among other recommendations, it makes several for reforming Korean copyright law. Heesob Nam provides a useful summary:

Introduction of comprehensive and open-ended fair use provisions in the Copyright Act;

Legislation of users’ right capable of offsetting abusive enforcement of copyright;

Guaranteeing the reuse and access of the general public to publicly-funded information and culture;

Balanced harmony of intellectual property and the right to culture and information;

These might seem mild enough, but against the current background they are likely to be seen as quite radical in giving more rights to the public, for a change. The commission also calls for South Korea’s existing implementation of the three-strikes approach to be reconsidered and, if necessary, repealed:

Regulations such as copyright three-strike-out rules, technological protection measures, and game shut-down, the regulatory effectiveness of which is doubtable and may restrict the right to culture and information, need to be examined in depth to see if they infringe other constitutional rights and, if necessary, such regulations are to be revoked.

Revocation of three strikes is precisely what one Korean politician hopes to achieve, as pointed out to us by @maira:

On March 24, 2013, Mr. Choi Jae-Cheon, a member of the Culture, Broadcasting, and Tourism Standing Committee of the Korean National Assembly, along with other twelve other sponsors, announced his proposal to repeal this provision of the law, which has been in force since 2009.

The problem, as is so often the case with copyright, is that the law has turned into a monster, suffering function creep and leading to disproportionate punishments. Global Voices explains:

Since the law was enacted, the Korean government has sent 468,446 takedown notices to users and shut down 408 website accounts. The law has affected far more users than it was originally intended to — it was passed with the goal of targeting users engaging in massive amounts of illegal downloading, estimated at about 1,000 users. But in fact, according to Mr. Choi’s investigation based on his team’s collected data from MCST [Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism], among 380 users whose accounts have been shut down, 174 (45.8%) of them inflicted damages of less than US$.90. Mr. Choi argues that their punishment, which constrains their right of access to information, is much harsher than the cost they incurred. Therefore, the law not only violates legal due process — it is also inefficient from an economic perspective, and it imposes a punishment that is disproportionate to the crime.

According to the same article, this is no mere one-off action, but part of a broader reform movement in South Korea:

This and other Internet-related policies have brought together professors and activists who are forming new non-profit organizations focused on Internet rights. This emerging public coalition shows a promising sign of a new counter-force against state-guided Internet and communication policy making processes in South Korea.

That would be a hugely welcome development, which might help to bring some much-needed balance into the nation’s copyright laws. And just as bad, one-sided copyright laws in one country can adversely affect the public elsewhere through trade agreements, let’s hope that good, proportionate ones — if we ever get them — can be equally far-reaching.

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Comments on “South Korea Considers Dumping Draconian Copyright Law Forced On It By The US”

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Violated (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I wish but the Special 301 report does seem to affect US Government policy either directly or indirectly.

For example Spain has been put on their naughty list twice now and both times the US State department bully the Spanish Government into new laws via their US Embassy in Madrid with threats of trade sanctions and more.

This is very ironic seeing Hollywood was founded on piracy and the US prior has been very lax on copyright. I am sure Americans love the stories by Charles Dickens but in those early years (using popular terms now) then those books were “stolen” and unlawful copies flooded the US market.

Social gain is rather selfish is it not.

out_of_the_blue says:

What about the 54.2% greater than $90?

“among 380 users whose accounts have been shut down, 174 (45.8%) of them inflicted damages of less than US$.90.”

Cherry picking that totally slants the case, not any sort of objective weighing.

And so what if more pirates are found than expected? Does that somehow invalidate the principle: HEY, CAPTAIN! The leak is BIGGER than we thought! You can QUIT WORRYING!

(Posting problems…)

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: What about the 54.2% greater than $90?

So just under 50% of the people are fined egregiously by the government, but it’s OK because slightly more than 50% of the people fined might not have been fined egregiously. What if the case was that some corporate fat cat had done the same? I’m sure you’d be all over how Glyn was not being anti-corporate enough.

But don’t worry blue, we all know you’re a liar and a hypocrite. This is just par for the course.

Violated (profile) says:


I can only say good luck to South Korea and I hope you do make major changes to improve public freedom and that this results in a bloom of creation that the rest of the World can admire and then replicate.

Don’t worry at all about those pesky International Trade Agreements when they are toilet grade paper anyway. Copyright and patents should be banned from such documents by default anyway when they should instead be handled through national laws with democratic oversight.

The only people South Korea are going to annoy are the Copyright Cartels and they should never have been allowed to control the market they sell their product into anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

no need to worry. the USA entertainment industries will soon manage to bribe and threaten those that want the changes into submission. i mean, no government is as strong as or has the power of the industry of make believe, or has the balls top stand against it! and lets face it, with the growing conflict between North and South Korea, all the USA has to do is say it’s pulling out of the south and the movie execs will be happy!

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hey now, the industry of make believe is part of the land of Make-Believe, which is the creation of Mr. Rogers (who is probably one of the greatest human beings to have ever lived in the last century. The man also went against the MAFIAA when they were trying to kill the VCR & Betamax).

What you’re thinking of is the Industry of Fiction and its legal counterpart, the Ministry of “Truth”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think part of the problem is that pirated software is probably so prevelet there, there the economy is probably dependent on it.

It is not unlike illegal immigration in America. The economy has become to dependent on the cheap labor from illegals, that really cracking down on it would break the economy.

I think that South Korea is beginning to see this with pirated software. In some Asian countries pirated software is so prevlent that really cracking down on it would break the economy.

I think that is why most Asian countries, outside of Japan, have pretty much rejected ACTA, they know that it would not only break the Internet, but the break their ecconomies as well.

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