Kakao sues alleged webtoon pirates for 1 billion won

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Kakao sues alleged webtoon pirates for 1 billion won

Kakao is seeking 1 billion won ($855,000) in damages from a website that stole its webtoons.

Three people involved in the running of the website, which was closed by Busan police in May, are being sued in the Seoul Central District Court by Kakao Page, which runs the IT company’s webtoon and web novel services.

According to the complaint, the website stole more than 27,000 episodes of 413 webtoons serially published on Daum, a Korean site that merged with Kakao in 2014, and posted them without permission.

One billion won is only a portion of the damages being sought, and according to the company’s statement, the total could increase depending on what additional information is found.

The website was said to have posted 260,000 webtoon episodes between May 2017 and 2019, achieving a total of 2.3 billion views, according to Webtoon Insight, a Korean information provider specialized in the field. The website generated 1.2 billion won in advertising revenues.

“Illegal distribution distorts the content market and threatens the ecosystem of the mobile content industry that has just begun to settle,” Kakao said, adding it will take strong action against copyright infringement to maintain the “creative will” of artists.

Korea’s webtoon market has been rapidly growing. The entire market for comic books and webtoons by revenue totaled 1.1 trillion won in 2018. The Korea Creative Content Agency estimates webtoons viewed online account for 70 percent of that market.

With the growth came the rise of websites that copy from providers that pay artists for their work, such as Naver, Daum and Lezhin Comics.

Last year, the owner of Bamtoki was investigated by the police and was sued by Naver and Lezhin.

The website was the largest in the black market for webtoons and had once ranked the 13th most visited website in Korea.

Last December, the Seoul Central District Court ordered the website’s owner to pay a total of 2 billion won in compensation to the plaintiffs.

“Apart from the damage we received as a webtoon platform, the decision to embark on a legal battle was on behalf of content providers and artists that were greatly affected by the copyright infringement,” Kakao Page said in a Wednesday statement.

According to Kakao, the website it is suing became the leading illegal webtoon site since Bamtoki was shut down last year.

In 2018, the police and Ministry of Culture forced the closure of 12 illegal webtoon sites and indicted 25 of its operators.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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