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Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law

By Danny O’Brien and Maira Sutton | EFF | March 29, 2013

In July 2009, South Korea became the first country to introduce a graduated response or “three strikes” law. The statute allows the Minister of Culture or the Korean Copyright Commission to tell ISPs and Korean online service providers to suspend the accounts of repeated infringers and block or delete infringing content online. There is no judicial process, no court of appeal, and no opportunity to challenge the accusers.

The entertainment industry has repeatedly pointed to South Korea as a model for a controlled Internet that should be adopted everywhere else. In the wake of South Korea’s implementation, graduated response laws have been passed in France and the United Kingdom, and ISPs in the United States have voluntarily accepted a similar scheme.

But back in Korea, the entertainment industry’s experiment in Internet enforcement has been a failure. Instead of tackling a few “heavy uploaders” involved in large scale infringement, the law has spiraled out of control. It has now distributed nearly half a million takedown notices, and led to the closing down of 408 Korean Internet users’ web accounts, most of which were online storage services. An investigation led by the Korean politician Choi Jae-Cheon showed that half of those suspended were involved in infringement of material that would cost less than 90 U.S. cents. And while the bill’s backers claimed it would reduce piracy, detected infringement has only increased as more and more users are subject to suspensions, deletion, and blocked content.

This Wednesday, Korea’s National Human Rights Commission recommended that the three strikes law be re-examined, given its unclear benefits, and its potential violation of the human rights to receive and impart information and to participate in the cultural life of the community.

Mr. Choi and twelve other members of the Korean National Assembly have taken the first step in that reform. Last week, they announced plans to introduce a law that would repeal three strikes, as well as ensure that ISPs have no need to pro-actively spy on their own users for signs of copyright infringement. Newly formed Korean digital rights group, OpenNet,  is also working hard to drum up political support for this initiative.

The rightsholders have reacted with alarm to the prospect of copyright reform in Korea, and have already begun heavy lobbying for the abandonment of Choi’s initiative. They badly need Korea to maintain this law, even if it damages Korea’s own economy and their citizen’s civil liberties. It’s not surprising that they have already been making frequent calls and meetings with Mr. Choi and other Korean politicians. If Korea rejects three strikes as a disaster, why should anyone else maintain its injustices?

Korean lawmakers need to stand firm. We, along with many other major international Internet rights groups, including Access, Creative Commons Korea, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Freepress, Free Software Foundation, Global Voices Advocacy, La Quadrature du Net, OpenMedia, ONG Derechos Digitales, and Public Knowledge, have written to strongly support Mr. Choi’s brave stand for his own citizens. His stand is based on thorough investigations of Korean Internet users’ experience of this law. We hope that his group’s reform will prevail, and that Korea will be freed of the dubious benefits and growing disadvantages of being the laboratory for this discredited experiment.

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Korean Lawmakers and Human Rights Experts Challenge Three Strikes Law