South Korea lives in the future (of brutal copyright enforcement)

The US-Korean Free Trade Agreement came with a raft of draconian enforcement rules that Korea -- then known as a world leader in network use and literacy -- would have to adopt. Korea has since become a living lab of the impact of letting US entertainment giants design your Internet policy -- and the example that industry lobbyists point to when they discuss their goals.

One of the laws that Korea adopted early was the infamous "three strikes" rule, where repeated, unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement leads to whole families being punished through restriction of, or disconnection from their Internet connections. Now the Korean National Human Rights Commission has examined the fallout from the country's three strikes rules, and called for its repeal due to high costs to wider Korean society.

Here's the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Danny O'Brien with more:

The entertainment industry has repeatedly pointed to South Korea as a model for a controlled Internet that should be adopted everywhere else. In the wake of South Korea's implementation, graduated response laws have been passed in France and the United Kingdom, and ISPs in the United States have voluntarily accepted a similar scheme.

But back in Korea, the entertainment industry's experiment in Internet enforcement has been a failure. Instead of tackling a few "heavy uploaders" involved in large scale infringement, the law has spiraled out of control. It has now distributed nearly half a million takedown notices, and led to the closing down of 408 Korean Internet users' web accounts, most of which were online storage services. An investigation led by the Korean politician Choi Jae-Cheon showed that half of those suspended were involved in infringement of material that would cost less than 90 U.S. cents. And while the bill's backers claimed it would reduce piracy, detected infringement has only increased as more and more users are subject to suspensions, deletion, and blocked content.

This Wednesday, Korea's National Human Rights Commission recommended that the three strikes law be re-examined, given its unclear benefits, and its potential violation of the human rights to receive and impart information and to participate in the cultural life of the community.

Korea's three strikes rules are similar to the "Six Strikes" rules that America's leading ISPs have voluntarily adopted and just put into effect. If you want to see the future of American Internet policy, and its fallout, look at Korea.

Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law


  1. South Korea changed its Internet and copyright laws back in 2010 and, as part of the US/FTA and its provisions regarding copyright enforcement, local ISPs have been begun to disconnect users after having received three complaints, however 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.”
    The Minister of Culture (as of 2010) had sent out 65,000 recommendations which local ISPs have treated as a lawful termination order, thus cutting off all but 40 customers (cite).  This has been done with no judicial oversight or due process and pretty much at the whim of the Ministry of Culture.  This means that almost any Korean internet poster could be cut off the internet due to an anonymous and unsubstantiated claim of copyright abuse, all without any judicial review.  If someone like “Minerva” popped up now, and quoted or even cited information that was published elsewhere, their ISP account could be cut off quickly under the guise of copyright/IP protection as defined by the FTA with America.

  2. This is hilarious. I watch a bit of South Korean television, and they are constantly violating copyrights! They will blatantly insert music and clips from other movies and TV shows with reckless abandon. There is no indication they were able to actually license all of these things, yet they never get in trouble at all.

    1. It’s OK when the giant corporations do it you see.

      It’s those pesky kids who downloaded a 99 cent song that are ruining the industry.

      Besides, most governments get a *lot* of money from the corporations, and in places like Korea or Japan or China, the ties between corporations and government are so tight as to be come indistinguishable.

    2. Could that not be fair use?

      The way you describe it – “they insert music and clips” – certainly sounds like it could be. Maybe?

  3. 90 cents? Infringement “cost less than 90 U.S. cents”?  Poppycock!  Those violations cost US artists one trillion dollars!  Each!

      1. The global economy is valued at about $70 trillion per year.

        So I think conservatively the damage of each infringing song download can be put at around $65 trillion. Conservatively.

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