Friday, June 01, 2007

Rumors of Internet Death are Exagerated

At first I dismissed this story as a factoid. Then there was some rumor mongering about it. Now its an exaggeration in full bloom. The story, and I mean that literally, is the "death of the internet in Korea!" (insert jarring chord).

As stated before, much of the "controversial" FTA provisions are covered upcoming changed to Korea's Copyright Law anyway. In other words, the FTA will do NOTHING to change Korea's law on the matter. Here is the "Alarming" text about the FTA via one of the above links:

"The Parties agree on the objective of shutting down Internet sites that permit the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or transmission of copyright works, of regularly assessing and actively seeking to reduce the impact of new technological means for committing online copyright piracy, and of providing generally for more effective enforcement of intellectual property rights on the Internet."
"Korea also agrees on the objective of shutting down Internet sites that permit the unauthorized downloading (and other forms of piracy) of copyright works, including so-called webhard services, and providing for more effective enforcement of intellectual property rights on the Internet, including in particular with regard to peer-to-peer (p2p) services."

Now while I cannot find the english language version online of the changes, I have found a summary written by a local Korean law firm Bae Kim and Lee about the changes in the Mondaq database. Thankfully, or not depending on your perspective, all the folks at BKL do is just rehash the law so. So compare the FTA text above with the changes for Korean Copyright Law effective July 1, 2007 and passed by the assembly well before the FTA was finally negotiated:

Article 2, subparagraph 7 of the Copyright Act has been amended to cover the public transmission right "to transmit or provide for use works, etc. by wire or wireless communications for the public to receive or access them". Additionally, Article 2, subparagraph 11 now includes, as a type of the public transmission right, the right of digital voice transmission, which means "public transmission of voices in a digital mode through an information and communications network to be commenced at the request of members of the public (other than general transmission)"...

The Copyright Act now includes provisions concerning the obligations of specific types of internet service providers (ISPs) to protect and cultivate the cultural industry. Under the newly-added Article 104, ISPs primarily engaging in services intended for peer-to-peer transmission are obligated, if requested by relevant rights holders, to take technical actions to intercept illegal transmission of copyrighted works or other necessary actions.

Article 103(2) of the Act also stipulates that if any person whose copyrights are infringed has requested the infringing ISP, through proving the infringement, to suspend the reproduction or transmission of his works, the ISP is required to suspend the reproduction or transmission without delay. Moreover, the new provision requires an ISP that suspended the reproduction or transmission of copyrighted information to notify the relevant rights holder who applied for suspension that it has taken place.

Now the above would possibly make the ISP criminally liable for failure to block access to the infringing material, and if guilty conceivably shut down by either by the courts, private settlement, or just simply by the financial demands of the case. And that shut down is exactly what would be required under the FTA. 

That leaves the question, if its going to happen anyway, why go through the time and effort to make a stink in the press. At the Marmot's Hole, where I blog occasionally, one contributor picks up on something a bit insidious, the group that made the initial press release is one of the well known anti-American groups over here. Accordingly, if you look beyond the provocation you can find some rather nutty language in the original release:

These provisions can be easily invoked by authorities to justify surveillance and outright censorship on political, cultural and social grounds. Memories of such a society are still fresh. Koreans fought hard to free themselves from long decades of authoritarian rule (much of which was at least indirectly US-supported), establishing one of the worlds most vibrant democracies. Human rights violations were common and severe as recently as 1992, though human rights and freedoms are now largely guaranteed. Civil society groups say they are not about to let US commercial interests open the doors for a new authoritarianism.

According to this group enforcing copyrights is a human rights violation! It's just another way for the US to subjugate Korea and return to authoritarian rule! Oh the humanity!

I know the blogosphere is a bit flaky, but some of the more respected places like Boing Boing should really read things in full before going off half-cocked.


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