Three Strikes: A Complete & Total Failure In South Korea…

The following comes from Electronic Frontier Foundation International Director Danny O’Brien and Global Policy Director Maira Sutton, both of whom take a very critical look at three strikes, ‘graduated response’ initiatives in South Korea.

Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law

In July 2009, South Korea became the first country to introduce a graduated response or “three strikes” law. The statute allows the Minister of Culture or the Korean Copyright Commission to tell ISPs and Korean online service providers to suspend the accounts of repeated infringers and block or delete infringing content online.  There is no judicial process, no court of appeal, and no opportunity to challenge the accusers.

The entertainment industry has repeatedly pointed to South Korea as a model for a controlled Internet that should be adopted everywhere else.  In the wake of South Korea’s implementation, graduated response laws have been passed in France and the United Kingdom, and ISPs in the United States have voluntarily accepted a similar scheme.


But back in Korea, the entertainment industry’s experiment in Internet enforcement has been a failure.  Instead of tackling a few “heavy uploaders” involved in large scale infringement, the law has spiraled out of control.  It has now distributed nearly half a million takedown notices, and led to the closing down of 408 Korean Internet users’ web accounts, most of which were online storage services.  An investigation led by the Korean politician Choi Jae-Cheon showed that half of those suspended were involved in infringement of material that would cost less than 90 U.S. cents.  And while the bill’s backers claimed it would reduce piracy, detected infringement has only increased as more and more users are subject to suspensions, deletion, and blocked content.

This Wednesday, Korea’s National Human Rights Commission recommended that the three strikes law be re-examined, given its unclear benefits, and its potential violation of the human rights to receive and impart information and to participate in the cultural life of the community.

Mr. Choi and twelve other members of the Korean National Assembly have taken the first step in that reform.  Last week, they announced plans to introduce a law that would repeal three strikes, as well as ensure that ISPs have no need to pro-actively spy on their own users for signs of copyright infringement.  Newly formed Korean digital rights group, OpenNet, is working hard to drum up political support for this initiative.

The rightsholders have reacted with alarm to the prospect of copyright reform in Korea, and have already begun heavy lobbying for the abandonment of Choi’s initiative.  They badly need Korea to maintain this law, even if it damages Korea’s own economy and their citizen’s civil liberties.  It’s not surprising that they have already been making frequent calls and meetings with Mr. Choi and other Korean politicians.  If Korea rejects three strikes as a disaster, why should anyone else maintain its injustices?

Korean lawmakers need to stand firm.  We, along with many other major international Internet rights groups, including AccessCreative Commons KoreaDemand ProgressFight for the FutureFreepressFree Software FoundationGlobal Voices AdvocacyLa Quadrature du Net,OpenMediaONG Derechos Digitales, and Public Knowledge, have written to strongly support Mr. Choi’s brave stand for his own citizens.  His stand is based on thorough investigations of Korean Internet users’ experience of this law.  We hope that his group’s reform will prevail, and that Korea will be freed of the dubious benefits and growing disadvantages of being the laboratory for this discredited experiment.


Original post here; story reprinted under Creative Commons Attribution License.  Image: Chelsea Marie Hicks, licensed under CC by 2.0.

12 Responses

  1. Visitor

    For a second, I actually thought you took Electronic Frontier Foundation seriously.
    Best joke today. 🙂

  2. Visitor

    “We, along with many other major international Internet rights groups, including Access, Creative Commons Korea, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Freepress, Free Software Foundation, Global Voices Advocacy, La Quadrature du Net,OpenMedia, ONG Derechos Digitales, and Public Knowledge,”
    Oops, you forgot Pirate Bay & North American Man/Boy Love Association.

  3. Visitor

    Why is this not surprising? This 3 strikes law was poorly written. I am surprised it lasted this long.

    As long as we continue to have copyright laws written by people that do not understand technology and care only about defending copyright instead of defending copyright while balancing every person’s rights, we will continue to have problems.

    • Visitor

      “As long as we continue to have copyright laws written by people that do not understand technology”
      Um, why would technology have anything to do with copyright? 🙂

      • Copyright Lawyer

        Are you being ironic?
        Copyright law changes every time the technology to reproduce copies changes.
        It could be argued that copyright law wouldn’t exist if we were still making copies by hand with pen and ink by dwindling candlelight.

        • Visitor

          “Are you being ironic?”
          Huh? Technology has no impact on the concept of copyright.
          “copyright law wouldn’t exist if we were still making copies by hand with pen and ink”
          Most silly comment this week (and that says a lot).
          You would knew why if you were a copyright lawyer…

          • Faza (TCM)

            Erm… you should try thinking about that again.
            The concept may remain fundamentally unchanged, but the specific applications do change considerably. Remember when recording technology appeared (or player pianos, for that matter)? It was completely clear right from the start what their legal position was.
            Oh wait, it wasn’t.
            How about Sony v. Universal? If you introduce a device that can record broadcasts (duplication), then surely it’s perfectly clear how copyright applies to that?
            No, I tell a lie. That one went to the Supreme Court.
            How about the internet? Gee, it’s a giant copying machine – you can’t send anything anywhere without making a copy, but no fear: existing copyright has the whole subject covered, it’s not like we need a new Act or anything.
            Or maybe we do.
            The concept remains unchanged, indeed. However, the actual law is written for a given time and technology. This means it requires updating as the situation changes.

          • Visitor

            Listen Faza, I’m aware that what I said may be a bit provoking.
            But I do feel that it is extremely important to keep our eyes on the ball.
            And all we need to remember is what you said right here:
            “The concept [of copyright] may remain fundamentally unchanged”
            That is the truth. The rest is just enforcement.
            Technologies come and go — copyright is old as sin and here to stay.

  4. Faza (TCM)

    I’m really not clear about what the complaint is: that the law is strongly enforced? Isn’t that the point of having one?
    I don’t have the time to read the original post, so maybe they have actual specifics, but just on general reflection South Korea is currently one of the strongest music markets out there (can’t speak for other creative industries). So there appears to be some benefit at least.
    Is the law being misapplied? Or is the problem that it is applied exactly as it was intended (I could definitely see the parties involved being unhappy about that)?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Verify Your Humanity *