More ‘Three Strikes’

A new copyright law went into effect in South Korea July 23 that allows authorities to effectively unplug violators from the Internet after “three strikes.”

Tech pundits are decrying the law as unnecessarily Draconian, as any use of copyrighted material can be deemed a violation if the user has not received permission from the holder.

The example from opposition is a 58-second home video of a 5-year-old child singing a Korean pop song in a post that the child’s father made on his personal blog last month.

The video was blocked by Naver, the biggest portal in Korea, which had been told by the Korea Music Copyright Association to take it down.

If the father posted the video after the law went into the effect, he would have had one “strike.” After three strikes the Culture Ministry could ban him from the Internet for up to six months, even without a complaint from the copyright holder.

Consequently, many Korean bloggers and community operators are abandoning Korean cyberspace in order to avoid anything that might smack of a violation.

Google has forbidden the uploading of any music to Korean blogs and social networking sites are telling users to not post homemade videos with background music or even mentioning song lyrics and quotes from books.

Search engines have agreed to stop accepting advertisements for P2P file-sharing services, even if the use is legal.

Conversely, another result of the very broadly worded law is a heated public discussion of the rights of copyright holders versus the rights of ordinary Internet users, since South Korea has one of the largest populations of broadband subscribers in the world.

Some critics, in fact, point out that the current success of Korean pop music can be attributed to the way production companies have taken advantage of the Internet in ways that go beyond the simple sale of tracks.

This legislation, which was enacted to fight piracy, admittedly a huge problem in Korea, may end up having a chilling effect on Korean pop culture in general.