Tuesday, July 17, 2007

North Korea finds IP a source of hard cash

As I get to my news backlog, the first thing that pops out is a Hankyoreh story of an album of North Korean songs now being sold in South Korea, with royalties going to the North:

Produced jointly by an organization promoting economic exchange with Pyongyang and UB Entertainment, the album includes renditions by ten South Korean artists, including Vibe, Maya, Bae Seulgi, and Baby Box Rev. It will be titled Dongin and is set to be released June 7...

North Korea's copyright agency is a new office created under the direct supervision of its cabinet. The organization that jointly produced the album is headed by Uri Party member of the National Assembly Im Jong-seok and received exclusive authority for dealing with North Korean copyright issues in South Korea in 2005.

I am not to sure how pioneering this is, given the history here. About two years ago a North Korean agency sued in a Seoul court to obtain royalties for unauthorized publication of a North Korean work. Of course it should be noted that the likelihood the royalties in any of these cases will make it to the hands of the artist. All it really amounts to is a hard cash grab on the part of North Korea.

Of course this may raise some interesting legal questions if anybody wants to press the issue. On one hand, if the North, and its IP, is recognized as a legal entity owing IP in South Korea, could a third party sue the North in a South Korean court for IP infringement. 

Moreover if anybody wanted to be really cheeky, a couple years ago the Korean teachers union put out a book which was proven to be copied North Korean propaganda, and such publication was probably not authorized (I believe such would be tantamount to violating the South's security laws). Anybody want to put the teachers union an embarrassing position?


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