Proprietary rights to your voice

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Proprietary rights to your voice

The author is a political news reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

If the face has the portrait right, the voice has the right of voice. The right of voice refers to the right not to have one’s voice recorded or published without permission. The court first recognized the right in a ruling four years ago. In October 2018, the Seoul Central District Court ruled that everyone has a basic Constitutional right not to have their voices recorded without consent, and the appeals court accepted this.

The right of voice began to be protected after it was rapidly violated defenselessly in recent years. In the past, recording was done by small voice-recording devices. But now, anyone can freely record anytime, anywhere, using a smartphone. Samsung Galaxy and other smartphones offer a recording function during a call.

As dashboard cameras are especially common in Korea, they often record voices unintentionally. The auto industry estimates that 80 to 90 percent of cars in Korea have dash cams as Koreans like to do things “by the law” and “preserve the evidence.” It is a stark contrast from the U.S., Europe and even Japan, where only 10 to 20 percent have dash cameras.

Recording without consent is not always inspired by bad intentions. The Seoul Transportation Corporation distributed 700 ID lanyards with a recording function to employees on July 18. Station staff suffer from verbal and physical violence by subway riders more than 150 times a year. It is an unspoken rule among nurses, salespeople, golf caddies and hospitality workers to carry smartwatches, IDs with a recording function, or USB-shaped recorders. It is a self-defense measure as they are constantly exposed to sexual harassment and abusive language from unruly patients or customers.

Recently, an amendment to the Law on the Protection of Communications Secrets to punish recording conversations without the consent of the other party by up to 10 years in prison triggered controversy. On August 18, Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun from the People Power Party proposed the bill, with 10 other lawmakers from the governing party, claiming that unauthorized recording violates the right of voice, a part of the Constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness.

When lawmakers have a phone call, teatime or meal with reporters, I often see them checking if it is being recorded. When I was asked, “Are you recording what I am saying now?” I realized that the best answer is, “Oh, I should have, but didn’t.”
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