South Korea's US-led copyright policy leads to 65,000 acts of extrajudicial censorship/disconnection/threats by govt bureaucrats

Tens of thousands of South Koreans have had their websites censored or been kicked off the Internet by their ISPs on the strength of a single, unsubstantiated accusation of copyright infringement, in a process that has no right of appeal, no right to face your accuser, and no right to see or contest the evidence against you.

South Korea changed its Internet and copyright laws a year ago, after being arm-twisted into a new set of rules as part of its US Free Trade Agreement (the US has also demanded new, tougher-than-domestic copyright laws in its FTAs with Australia, Chile, Central America, and many other states). Under the new rules, Korean ISPs are obliged to kick their customers (and their families) off the Internet after receiving three unsubstantiated copyright accusations.

But a second procedure allows the Minister of Culture to recommend that households be disconnected from the Internet; or that material hosted on web servers be censored, or that an ISP send a threatening "warning" letter to a customer. In the past year, the Minister has sent out 65,000 "recommendations" to Korean ISPs, and in all but 40 cases, the ISPs have complied with the recommendation -- meaning that the recommendation carries the force of law. Except, unlike a law, it has no judicial oversight, no due process, and is handed down by fiat from an unaccountable government bureaucrat.

The US-Korea FTA was the template for the much-watered-down Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secret, closed-door copyright treaty negotiation through which the US is attempting to write the whole world's copyright and Internet laws (South Korea joined the US in fighting to keep the treaty process closed and the drafts secret). South Korea was once the world's leader in the use of Internet as an engine for economic growth and civic engagement, far outstripping the US's own rather anemic showing in the global league-tables for Internet penetration and speed. The US Trade Representative has done his damndest to undo that competitive advantage by forcing Korea's Internet to wear shackles and weights, and he wants to do the same for your country, too.

Hopefully, it's clear what's going on. Basically, the Commission has sent out a lot of warnings, and blocked/deleted a ton of content. A total of 31 users have had their accounts suspended -- again, with no indication that there was any number of warnings or pre-notice at all. Separately, the blog post in question does note that the other method (the actual three strikes way, involving the Culture Minister) has sent out a much smaller 275 warnings and 41 orders to delete content, but none to suspend accounts.

A Look At How Many People Have Been Kicked Offline In Korea On Accusations (Not Convictions) Of Infringement (via /.)