Efforts to eradicate the illegal distribution of Korean content

  • Department International Cooperation and PR Team
  • Registration Date 2023-10-20
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Efforts to eradicate the illegal distribution of Korean content

In cooperation with related ministries, including the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Korea Communications Commission, and the Korean National Police Agency, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has announced measures to eradicate the digital piracy that is harming the growth of the Korean content industry. Following President Yoon’s order to establish a plan to eradicate the illegal distribution of content, inter-ministerial measures were established through a private sector/ruling party/administrative consultation meeting based on the results of discussions at the inter-ministerial meeting on the issue and consultations with the content industry.

Efforts to eradicate the illegal distribution of Korean content

With the constant evolution of piracy sites, the piracy of copyrighted content is increasing

The Korean content industry has emerged as a major driver of South Korea’s economy thanks to the increasing global popularity of Korean dramas, movies, and pop music. The export of content products in 2021 reached 13 billion dollars, surpassing exports of electronic goods, secondary batteries, and display panels. In 2022, South Korea ranked seventh out of 85 countries in terms of cultural influence. The Korean content industry is now driving the growth of South Korean economy in tandem with the service and manufacturing industries.

However, the increasing illegal distribution of Korean content has been threatening the growth of this industry. The emergence of piracy sites with servers located overseas, such as NuNu TV, which was shut down last April, is disrupting the healthy ecosystem of the content industry. NuNu TV alone is estimated to have caused over five trillion won in damage to the industry. Since it was closed, the number of OTT service users in Korea has increased by one million, suggesting the scale of damage that piracy is inflicting on the industry. Advanced digital technology lies behind this increasing piracy, making it difficult to track and block such sites and enabling anyone to freely steal copyrighted content.

In response, the government has established four strategies for eradicating the illegal distribution of Korean content by mobilizing international partners, related ministries, and the private sector: Speedy & Strict; Cooperation; Science; and Change (SCSC).

Speedy & Strict: Rapid responses from detection to examination and blocking of piracy sites

The first strategy, Speedy & Strict, is a rapid and rigorous response to the illegal distribution of copyrighted content. The government will accelerate the process of monitoring, examining, and blocking piracy sites. In the case of NuNu TV, the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Korea Communications Commission streamlined the deliberation process and ordered the blocking of the site 27 times in four months, eventually forcing the site to close. The government’s strategy is to use a swift and unyielding inter-ministerial approach that prevents copyright-infringing sites from generating profits.

To this end, the government will develop a system that automatically detects piracy sites and expands the range of platforms subject to monitoring. The Korea Communications Commission’s deliberation on the blocking of piracy sites, which currently takes place twice per week, will be conducted around the clock in order to expedite the process. The participants in the consultative meeting agreed that the proposed revisions to the Korea Communications Commission law should be passed at the National Assembly without delay in order to enable this.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, Ministry of Justice, Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, and National Police Agency will join forces to investigate sites with a severe social impact and implement robust crackdowns in response to an occurrence of widespread distribution of pirated copies.

The sentencing and standards for prosecutorial cases for copyright infringement will be raised as well. In addition, punitive damages will be introduced to allow compensation in civil cases that is greater than actual damages. Last, the government will encourage whistle-blowing against pirate operators by providing rewards to whistleblowers.

Cooperation: Expand cooperation with INTERPOL

The second strategy is to strengthen international cooperation. Once identified, pirate operators will be carefully investigated and arrested based on domestic and international cooperation. In particular, the government will strengthen cooperation with the US, which is a major victim of digital pirate activities. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism will pursue a cooperation agreement with the US Department of Homeland Security to create a joint investigation team. The Korea Copyright Protection Agency will work with the US Motion Picture Association to share information on cases of copyright infringement and seek joint action.

The government will also strengthen cooperation with overseas police agencies, including INTERPOL. In May 2022, the Judicial Police Team of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism cooperated with the National Police Agency, INTERPOL, and the national police service of Morocco to investigate and enforce the closure of SkyManga for illegally distributing copyrighted South Korean webtoons. The government is planning to designate a Korean content infringement investigation cooperation officer for INTERPOL as part of its efforts to expand cooperation with the international police organization.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice will promote South Korea’s accession to the Convention on Cybercrime without delay in order to share investigative materials and information with other member countries.

Science: Reorganizing the investigation team at the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism into a scientific investigation team for copyright crime.

The third strategy, Science, is related to expanding the investigative team at the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism into a scientific investigation team to assist with copyright crimes. The goal is to reinforce the scientific investigative capacity of the Ministry’s special judicial police. The Ministry will also introduce a crime analysis office whose role is to conduct examinations of digital evidence and establish investigation strategies.

“Copyright, Right Now,” an awareness-raising project to promote public respect for copyrights

The fourth strategy is to raise public awareness of the importance of copyright protection, which is critical if content piracy is to be eradicated. For this, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has launched the “Copyright, Right Now” awareness-raising project. In it, young people, who are main actors in the creation and consumption of content, will be encouraged to spread copyright protection messages in their social spaces, including in online second-hand markets and college student communities.

The government will also develop a textbook on copyright issues and guidelines on copyright protection for educational materials in order to help young adults establish a firm awareness of the importance of copyright protection. Lastly, it will expand the “Education with Creators” school-visit program and open an experiential copyright museum in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do Province.

Promoting industrial growth and job creation by protecting copyrighted content and upholding the incumbent government’s value of fairness and common sense

If these comprehensive measures successfully stem the loss of profit due to digital piracy, it will greatly help in achieving the goals established at the fourth Export Strategy Meeting chaired by President Yoon on February 23, which for the content industry are 25 billion dollars in exports and 200 trillion won in sales by 2027. With the potential success of the government measures, sales in the content industry are expected to increase from 137 trillion won in 2021 to 200 trillion won in 2027, with 580,000 jobs created. The creation of jobs in this sector will be highly impactful since the content industry is especially popular among young people.

“These comprehensive measures will provide a turning point for eradicating crimes that exploit the products of creators’ passion and hard work and in helping the incumbent government’s value of fairness and common sense become deeply rooted in our society,” said a government official. “The government will systematically implement these measures and show our resolute will to eradicate the illegal distribution of Korean content.”