South Korea Targeted for Online Piracy

The U.S. government elevated South Korea's position on an intellectual property rights watch list this week. The move was made because of the Asian nation's failure to address several issues of U.S. concern over online piracy of music and movies, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative says in a statement.

South Korea will join 11 other nations on the USTR's priority watch list as the result of a special review of online piracy in the nation that was conducted by the USTR in late December. The review found that online music and movie piracy in the country, which is the sixth largest export market for the U.S., has caused an estimated $572 million in losses to U.S. copyright holders in 2002, according to the statement.

Two issues came in for particular criticism by the USTR. They are the failure of the South Korean government to submit legislation strengthening rights governing audio recordings and its failure to grant the Korea Media Rating Board the authority to stop movie piracy.

P-to-P Problems

Multi-megabit per second broadband is virtually ubiquitous in South Korea and peer-to-peer file-sharing services have been popular for several years. Initially, the locally developed Soribada service provided the most popular P-to-P trading site and recently, after growing legal pressure on Soribada's operators caused the site to be shut down temporarily, users have begun switching to other P-to-P networks.

South Korea is hardly alone in being criticized. An annual review published in May this year listed 50 nations as causing special concern for the USTR. Eleven of those were named to the special watch list to which South Korea has been added. They are: Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, and Taiwan.

Countries that fail to make progress in negotiations with the U.S. may find themselves facing sanctions. The USTR cited Ukraine as currently subject to $75 million in sanctions as a result of insufficient progress on intellectual property issues. At least two countries, China and Paraguay, were previously on the priority watch list but were removed after satisfying U.S. demands.

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