The temptations ― and justifications ― of the pirate’s lifeThough the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency recently ranked Korea fifth among 12 Asian nations in the protection of intellectual property rights, the extent to which copyright laws are ignored is alarming. Piracy of music, movies, software and other forms of entertainment is taken for granted.
Even in the academic world, copyright rules are ignored, at least by those students, and sometimes teachers, who photocopy entire textbooks without guilt. Doing this is as simple as taking a book to a copy shop and picking it up a couple of days later. It can be bound book-style, with durable covers, and typically costs about 10,000 won ($8.50), compared to sometimes well over 100,000 won for the original.
Korean college campuses are often centers of textbook piracy. Pirated textbooks are sold out of vans on campus. Professors, universities and even the ministry of education do little to prevent this.
I can empathize with students who resort to piracy because of a lack of resources. In my senior year of high school at an international school in Korea, some peers and I proposed an independent study in art history. The administration rejected it because the school didn’t have the necessary resources ― the slides, the text, even the instructor. We settled for macroeconomics, which only required a textbook.
We ordered a used textbook on www.amazon.com in September. Used books are a great alternative, because they sometimes cost less than a tenth of the original price, and you aren’t breaking the law. I purchased a nearly $80 book for $9, though shipping cost another $10. Another friend purchased an almost-new textbook for less than $5. But it was mid-December by the time we received them, because of international shipping complications. Even a friend who had ordered a brand new copy received it in late November. A whole semester had been wasted. For our other independent study, we resorted to hand-me-down textbooks from graduated seniors ― and, for those who couldn’t get one, photocopies.
But copyright infringement shouldn’t be overlooked forever, because those who worked hard to produce a textbook should get what they deserve. The Association of American Publishers estimates that publishers in the United States lost about $36 million to piracy in Korea in 2002. On March 18, for the first time ever, the AAP led a raid, with the cooperation of Seoul investigators, targeting a copy shop on the Science and Engineering Campus of Korea University. Illegal copies of books from AAP publishers such as Oxford University Press and McGraw-Hill were tracked. Though it will be a gradual process, those who infringe on copyright laws will eventually face consequences.
There are places in Seoul where foreign books can be purchased, including university bookstores. The stores can order books that aren’t in stock, though this can take weeks. Books can be ordered promptly online, though it can mean a shipping fee as expensive as the book.
Yet the temptation of the pirate textbook is undeniably great. After all, it is a popular Korean notion that the method by which you gain knowledge doesn’t matter, as long as you gain it.
by Sarah Chi-yon Kim
The writer is an intern at the Joong- Ang Daily.