South Korea Bolsters Copyright Strategy In K-Pop Crazy States

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Manila, Philippines – With the global success of the dance single Gangnam Style, the heyday of the Korean popular music or K-Pop, along with the country’s other creative content, is proving to be far from over. And it’s providing a good reason for the Republic of Korea to bolster its copyright protection strategy, particularly in countries where its creative content exports are most popular and where copyright infringement is inevitable.

Kyong-Soo Choe, director general of the Korea Copyright Commission (KCC), said in an interview with Intellectual Property Watch that the Korean government has made substantial investments to protect domestic and foreign copyrights. Part of the mandate of the KCC, an agency under the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, is to make South Korea a “global copyright leader.”

Kyong-Soo was in the Philippine capital Manila last week for the Korea-Philippines Copyright Forum, held on 7 December, which was staged to raise copyright awareness in the country where various forms of Korean entertainment such as K-Pop, Korean soap operas or “Koreanovelas” and Korean online games are a hit.

The popularity of Korean entertainment in the Philippines is just part of the worldwide phenomenon of an unprecedented spread and massive consumption of Korean entertainment called as the “Hallyu Wave” or the “Korean Wave” which rakes in billions of dollars in yearly revenues for the country.

In the Philippines, for instance, local television companies regularly buy licenses from Korean broadcasters for them to be able to air dubbed versions of Koreanovelas. Local online game publishers also source most of their games from Korean game publishers.

However, not all Korean creative content that is available in the local market is legitimate. Pirated copies of Korean drama shows, music and games are also easily accessible to the public both offline and online. In general, “there is a very low level of IP consciousness and very low level of IP appreciation among Filipinos,” Mark Herrin of the IP Office of the Philippines told the forum. The Philippines is moving to amend its copyright law to address this nagging piracy problem.

On 11 December, the Philippine Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the copyright bill amendments, with the target of the Philippine President signing this into law before the end of the year.

KCC has an office in Manila, launched in May this year. The Manila office is the fourth satellite office of KCC after it opened offices in Beijing and Shanghai in China and in Bangkok, Thailand.

Soon, another KCC office will open in Vietnam and an office in the United States is in the pipeline as well, Kyong-Soo said.

“What is most important is to establish good relations between the two countries and to have a better environment for the right holders,” Kyong-Soo said, when asked about the strategy of the state agency in countries where the rate of copyright piracy is high.

The Philippines and Vietnam are on the 2012 watchlist of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), while China and Thailand are on its priority watchlist. The USTR’s Special 301 Report [pdf] unilaterally examines intellectual property rights protection and enforcement in US trading partners and subsequently lists and classifies either as on the watchlist or priority watchlist countries it deems to not offer adequate protection for US IP rights owners.

With the office in Beijing opened in 2006, KCC’s first office abroad, Kyong-Soo said it is still too early and also difficult to enumerate “tangible results” of its efforts in countries where it has satellite offices. Among other things, the KCC office provides expert advice for rightsholders, the industry and the government; promotes copyright awareness; and engages in copyright information and exchange with local counterparts.

In addition, as part of KCC’s mandate to hold international cooperation and exchanges in the area of copyright, the agency organises every year bilateral fora between Korea and China, Korea and Japan and multilateral fora and seminars in the Southeast Asian region to exchange information on latest trends in copyright protection.

Copyright-based industry is an important contributor to South Korea’s economic growth. According to a WIPO-commissioned study [pdf], in 2009 alone, the nominal value of copyright-based industry of South Korea was at 105.4 trillion Korean won (KRW) or about US $97.33 trillion at today’s exchange rate, accounting for 9.89 percent of the country’s GDP.

At the forum, Do-goo Lee of SBS Content Hub presented the three new modes of copyright infringement, namely torrent; smart phone copyright infringement coming in the forms of free streaming and illegal podcast on iTunes; and unauthentic IPTV business through domestic cable delivery. SBS is South Korea’s giant commercial broadcaster which supplies to broadcasters around the world its hit Koreanovelas.

Also, South Korean speakers shared at the forum the importance of copyright protection, the roles of the government in IP rights protection, such as making sure to provide governing rules for fair competition, to make appropriate laws and regulations, to implement enforcement measures and to participate in international norm-setting processes.

Maricel Estavillo may be reached at maricelestavillo@gmail.com.

Creative Commons License"South Korea Bolsters Copyright Strategy In K-Pop Crazy States" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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  1. [...] Le Pays du Matin Calme est en effet une contrée qui ne plaisante pas avec le droit d’auteur (c’est le premier pays par exemple à avoir mis en place une riposte graduée à l’imitation de la France). La K-pop fait d’ailleurs partie intégrante du phénomène de l’Hallyu ou « vague coréenne » qui voit depuis plusieurs années la Corée diffuser massivement ses productions culturelles dans les pays asiatiques environnants et dans le monde entier. PSY est d’ailleurs devenu le fer de lance de cette stratégie commerciale, qui passe également par une sensibilité accrue à la lutte contre la contrefaçon en Corée, soumis au piratage massif d’autres pays comme les Philippines par exemple. [...]

  2. [...] Le Pays du Matin Calme est en effet une contrée qui ne plaisante pas avec le droit d’auteur (c’est le premier pays par exemple à avoir mis en place une riposte graduée à l’imitation de la France). La K-pop fait d’ailleurs partie intégrante du phénomène de l’Hallyu ou « vague coréenne » qui voit depuis plusieurs années la Corée diffuser massivement ses productions culturelles dans les pays asiatiques environnants et dans le monde entier. PSY est d’ailleurs devenu le fer de lance de cette stratégie commerciale, qui passe également par une sensibilité accrue à la lutte contre la contrefaçon en Corée, soumis au piratage massif d’autres pays comme les Philippines par exemple. [...]

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