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[Opinion] Copyright

Posted January. 17, 2003 22:36,   


Writer Jo Jeong-rae set a best-selling record by selling more than 10 million copies of three of his epic stories `the Tabaek Range,` `Arirang` and `the Han River.` When his only son became a college student, he gave him a daunting task of copying the entire story of `the Taebaek Range` on manuscript paper. If it were piled up on the floor, the copied manuscript paper would reach beyond Jo`s stature. His daughter-in-law, who became a member of his family four years ago, is also copying the books on manuscript paper. Jo thought that they needed to understand how hard to write books even just a little part of it, since they will get the fruits of his intellectual work.

▷We have a copyright law that protects copyrights for up to 50 years posthumously. It does not sound like a short time, but in the U.S., the Supreme Court recently ruled that the bill calling for the extension of posthumous copyright protection up to 70 to 95 years was constitutional by seven to two. A great number of art works, from Walt Disney`s `Mickey Mouse` to Earnest Hemingway`s `The Sun Rises Again,` will be subject to the new copyright law. The U.S. congress, in fact, extended the period of protection eleven times for the last 40 years. When a copyright law was first introduced in 1970, it was only 14 years after death.

▷Members of the so-called copyleft movement, who oppose the copyright protection as an obstacle to advances in academic and art work, argue that the congress will further extend the period some 20 years later. Forces behind aggressive lobbying effort for copyright protection are giant media firms such as Disney, movie production companies, recording labels and families of diseased copyright holders. Justice Steven Brayer, one of the two justices who opposed the bill, points out that copyrights fees for the extended 20 years will come out of the pockets of people reading books, watching movies and listening to CDs. For instance, for an airliner to play an old movie made in 1920, it will most likely raise the ticket price to pay for hefty copyright fees.

▷The ruling for the extension will only give benefits to grandsons of diseased artists who hardly know about their hardworking writer or composer grandfathers, and make rich giant media groups like Disney even richer. Given the fact that American institutional arrangements tend to spread into the world in the name of global standards, we might start discussing about extending the posthumous copyright protection period to 70 years. Still, we cannot but wonder it makes sense to collect hefty fees to feed grandsons of great artists who never even copied the works before.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com