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[Op-ed] Online Video Piracy

Posted September. 01, 2009 07:48,   


“Old Partner,” an indie film describing the 30-year friendship between an elderly farmer and a cow, set a domestic indie record at the box office by attracting more than two million viewers early this year. The movie’s producers suffered huge damage, however, as a pirated version of the film circulated via P2P Web sites. After the producer sought a criminal investigation, 39 people were booked without physical detention. Producers are scrambling to protect their copyrights because once digital content is pirated, it spreads throughout the Web at incredible speed and wreaks irreversible damage.

Most movies leak out in the DVD production phase after screening at cinemas, and are circulated through P2P sites on the Internet. A pirate can earn big money through illegal taping and copying of files. Web sites loaded with illegal video files charge users subscription fees. Illegal circulation of such content is so widespread, dozens of online data storage and P2P sites are created and removed daily. An online black market is being used to trade illegal video clips. Producers monitor cyberspace around the clock in a desperate bid to prevent piracy, but to no avail.

Pirates are getting bolder in circulating illegal video clips. Even new movies being screened at theaters are circulating on the Internet. The Cyber Terror Response Center of the National Police Agency is probing the online piracy of the domestic blockbuster “Haeundae,” which was released Aug. 22 and has attracted 10.73 million viewers through Sunday. Producer CJ Entertainment said, “It is quite unusual that an illegal file is circulating in cyberspace even while the movie is still being screened at theaters.” CJ is all the more fearful because the movie released in China Aug. 25 and in the U.S. Aug. 28 before premiering in Southeast Asia.

Around 70 to 90 percent of music and video contents circulating online in Korea are illegally pirated. The damage from piracy exceeds two trillion won (1.6 billion dollars) per year in the country. The number of lawsuits for copyright violations jumped from 10,000 in 2006 to 78,000 cases last year. A revised Copyright Act took effect July 23 this year allowing authorities to order online service providers that circulate pirated materials to suspend services. When piracy is prevalent, the culture and content industry cannot develop. Who on earth will invest in creative materials if the resources that producers invest ample time and money in are stolen and sold dirt cheap on streets or downloaded free of charge?

Editorial Writer Park Yeong-kyun (parkyk@donga.com)