Cracking down on piracy

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Cracking down on piracy

A new stringent copyright law endorsed by the National Assembly last April goes into effect tomorrow.

Taking tougher actions against the piracy of copyrighted material and intellectual property rights is a global trend. There are still many people in our society with a penchant for copying and making imitations of products from advanced markets.

Korea has been on the United States watch list for potential abuses of intellectual property rights for 20 years but was finally removed three months ago.

The new law may help to further cleanup our image as well as to protect our own music and film industries from similar piracy attacks. And these attacks are indeed occurring here. The Korean independent film “The Old Partner” became an unexpected hit last year, but it failed to generate much revenue due to illegal file-sharing and distribution.

The new law keeps the guidelines used for determining illegality but toughens punitive measures. The move is primarily aimed at those engaged in large-scale illegal uploading or distribution of copyrighted material with the intent of making profits.

The police team launched by the government to specifically go after digital piracy ensnared 43 people for illegal file-sharing, uploading and DVD production during the first six months of this year. Those collared allegedly pocketed 6 billion won ($4.8 million) by selling downloads to 490,000 users.

The new law can force those caught to destroy their files and cease peer-to-peer distribution of copyrighted material. Noncompliance can lead to a six-month or more suspension from their Web accounts.

Some online community members condemn the punishments as too harsh and oppressive.

But we first need to change our mind-set about music and movies. Without copyrights, TV dramas and other intellectual property cannot generate revenue overseas, and in the long run that could stifle creativity in the future.

Of course, the new law is not the answer to all the problems. Teenagers must receive proper education on what constitutes illegal downloads and uploads.

Teenagers charged with unauthorized distribution and illegal file-sharing last year totaled 23,470, compared with 611 in 2006. The police decided to pardon first-timers until February, and officials conditionally suspended some cases. But this Band-Aid action won’t solve any problems.

Authorities, Internet service providers, schools and parents should all be responsible for educating the public about this issue.
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