By Joo Chul-min / IPLeft
The U.S. government has been requesting amendments to the Intellectual Property rights law and Computer Program Protection law of the Republic of Korea consistent with its own policy. This has created a situation where the Republic of Korea's Intellectual Property law has increasingly become more restricted over the last several years. In January 2001, the exclusive right of copying and transmission of digital products was granted to the copyright holder. In 2003, numerous amendments were made to Korea's legislation including protection of databases without creativity, punishment regulation against reproduction of technical protection measures as well as granting the judicial police enforcement regarding the control of illegal software. Further amendments of copyright law grant the right to transmission solely to the neighboring rights holder. These cases clearly reflect the interest of the U.S. and its influence on our Intellectual Property laws as unilateral amendments.
Following its review of the intellectual property right protection level, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced September 1, 2003 the Republic of Korea would be placed on their priority Watch List, downgraded from their previous Watch List of recent years. Previously in 1989, 1992-1996 and 2000-2001, it was also on the priority watch list.
This decision to place Korea on the priority watch list is based on Special Section 301 of U.S. Trade Policy. Section 301 is divided into Normal, Super and Special Sections. While Normal and Super Sections are not restricted to a certain subject or area, Special Section 301 is only applied to the intellectual property rights area. In other words, even though the U.S. government can still exercise a sufficient trade pressure power with Normal Section 301 and Super Section 301, the sole intent of Special Section 301 is to strengthen this already biased trade pressure. Essentially, the U.S. is trying to maximize its own benefits through unlimited trade pressure wherever intellectual property is concerned.
Of further concern is how the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) reflects the specific view of the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA). The IIPA is comprised of industry heads in music production, movie making, software programming and publishing companies. Each February the IIPA releases its own report which usually coincides directly with the opinion of the USTR, which is not released until April.
Worse yet is how the Korean government not only yielded to trade pressure from the U.S. but also allowed for provisions which would provide for police enforcement for the control of illegal software. Such legislation is internationally unprecedented. Furthermore, as such unilateral trade pressure is biased to reflect only the interest of the U.S. corporations and is even considered an opportunity to unfairly strengthen its competitive advantage, some copyright organisations are trying to gain vested rights through intensification of the domestic Intellectual Property Right.
The purpose of the Intellectual Property Right regime should be equally reflected on the interests of the creators and users, as it is currently it is only respecting the interest of the copyright and neighboring right holders. It is the goal of the U.S. corporations to make this view reflected on legislation of every country all over the world.
The Intellectual Property Right is not merely a possession of copyright holders. Intellectual products would be meaningless if there were no users to enjoy them. It must be recognized that the fundamental aim of the Intellectual Property Right regime is to strengthen the consensus and exchange between the authors and users.