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Posted : 2009-07-21 21:25
Updated : 2009-07-21 21:25

New Online Copyright Law Baffles Users

By Kim Tong-hyung
Staff Reporter

With the government's new anti-piracy measures going into effect Thursday, Internet users are struggling to figure out what to do with their old blog posts and video clips.

The revised copyright law, devised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, grants authorities the power to suspend the Web accounts of Internet users transferring copyrighted content such as videos, music and text, for a maximum six months.

Regulators can also shut down Web sites after a third warning over copyright infringement, regardless of whether or not the copyright holders complained about it.

Internet users accused of illegally sharing copyrighted content will also be subject to the ``three-strikes'' rule, which results in having their Web accounts severed.

Ministry officials emphasize that the provisions aren't intended to target the average blogger, but the ``heavy uploaders'' who move a large volume of illegal files on peer-to-peer services and online storage sites and gain commercially from the actions.

However, most industry watchers believe that the impact of the strengthened law will immediately be felt by regular Internet users each time they press copy and paste, and eventually, might compromise the vibrancy of the country's Internet culture.

Critics argue that the loose definition of ``copyrighted content,'' which could be anything from films and music to news stories and blog postings, makes the new law over-the-top.

A debate over the law's excessiveness was triggered earlier this month when Naver (www.naver.com), the country's most popular Web site, decided to delete a video clip of a five-year-old girl singing and dancing to a Son Dam-bi song, which had been posted by a users of its blog services.

The move was criticized severely in the blogosphere, although Naver countered that it was only responding to a complaint by the Korea Music Copyright Association.

The Internet companies aren't taking any chances when the new anti-file sharing provisions could have severe ramifications to their business.

``Copyright laws are all about balancing the protection of intellectual property rights and encouraging the consumption of those content in the right way. It is regrettable that the balance seems to be broke here, with too much weight concentrated toward the protection side,'' the company wrote in its official blog.

``This broken balance will not help users, online service providers and also copyright holders in the long term.''

SK Communications, the operator of popular social networking service, Cyworld (www.cyworld.com), and Web portal, Nate (www.nate.com), has been alerting its users about the legal changes through messages on its Web sites since last week.

The company is telling its users that the use of copyrighted images and videos on blogs or Web communities will be strictly prohibited, and that also goes for movie lines, song lyrics and book excerpts.

SK Communications also warns that those goofy parodies of movie posters or video clips of school girls singing and dancing to the latest Wonder Girls tune won't be allowed when the new law kicks in. And forget about posting restaurant reviews or traveling journals to blogs unless you wrote them yourself, based on the list of possible violations provided by the company.

A company spokesman said it is recommended that users review their own Web postings and erase any content that used copyrighted materials without authorization.

``We are trying to emphasize to our users that most of the copyright violations are unintentional, and self-reviewing has become very important,'' said the company official.

Online piracy is a serious problem in Korea, as evidenced by every major Hollywood studio giving up on their DVD businesses here.

thkim@koreatimes.co.kr
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