As is the case with Americans, many South Koreans enjoy a good game of baseball. But that’s not to say that they’ll tolerate a baseball metaphor in their public policy–especially when the metaphor in question is being used to describe the now infamous “three strikes and you’re out” Internet disconnection regime. Earlier this month, the South Korean National Assembly’s Committee on Culture, Sports, Tourism, Broadcasting & Communications (CCSTB&C) passed a bill that would revise South Korean copyright law to include three strikes provisions, which, judging by recent events, appear to be suddenly en vogue. According to South Korean pundits, the amended version of the copyright bill is largely expected to sail through the South Korean legislature in April. I, however, disagree: I don’t think that three strikes stands a chance in South Korea.
Instead of explaining myself, I’m simply going to quote Boing Boing tipster “Joe,” who does a terrific job of listing off the reasons why proponents of three strikes have their work cut out for them in South Korea:
1. Currently, under Korea’s copyright law, there are broad classroom exemptions for educational use of material, without compensation to rightsholders. (Chapter 2, Section 4, Subsection 2, Article 25) Look for universities and other public schools to become hotbeds of exemption challenges.
2. PC Bangs (internet cafes) might try to put each other out of business using the new laws. This could result in some cafes using advanced black-box anonymizing services to protect themselves and their customers (not necessarily a bad thing).
3. Korean “netizens” might otherwise protest the new system by seeding government BBS and official websites with infringing links and material, and then use the reporting process to overwhelm the system.
4. This proposed law will push internet services into greater black-market criminal activity. Pirated software can be found everywhere, including software commonly-used by government employees. 99% of Korean software is Windows-based. Korea uses active-X controls for practically everything, meaning the entire country is already prone to security problems.
5. Additionally, the use of the internet for organizing civil protest in Korea has been highly effective: the recent Mad-cow Disease protests (while factually incorrect) reached hysterical proportions, delaying implementation of the US-Korea Free-Trade Agreement. Korea still has national security laws against criticizing the government. Online K-blogger Minerva was arrested because he brought to light the Korean government’s economic manipulations. With an unstable currency and an undercurrent of restlessness among its populace, the government has been greatly embarrassed. Look for this law to be the perfect tool for Korea to once-again shoot itself in the foot.
Out of the above points, I feel like number five holds the greatest potential for shaping this debate. As we saw in New Zealand mere weeks ago, public dissent can be an extremely effective tool when resisting these sorts of mandates. If South Koreans have already effectively used the Internet to organize mass protests, as Joe suggests, then using the web to organize and stage demonstrations against the three strikes proposal should be a walk in the park, considering that Internet freedom is what’s at stake here. Does anyone feel another blackout coming on?
Also worthy of note: apparently, the push for this legislation is coming not from Hollywood but from the Korean movie industry, which is looking to launch an online movie download service in the coming months. It’s not hard to see why a three strikes policy would be advantageous to the proprietors of just such a service, though the provisions, as written, would undoubtedly interfere with the rights of citizens to make fair use of copyrighted works. Here’s hoping that those citizens make their voices heard–and that they are every bit as successful as their Kiwi counterparts were.