Boom times for S Korea file share lawyers

In South Korea, lawyers are doing a roaring trade suing kids for copyright infringement, or “violations,” as the corporate music industry prefers to call them.

But Daejeon Jungbu police have come up with a plan to save youngsters from, “indiscriminate litigation for copyright infringement,” says the JoongAng Daily.

Thanks to sterling efforts by Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony BMG, in South Korea a copyright infringement can mean jail time of up to five years, or fines of up to 50 million won (more than $37,000) in fines.

An 18-year-old high school student was accused of a breaking copyrights after she posted music files in her blog without obtaining permission from the song’s owner, says the story.

Settle for more than 1 million won ($725) and all will be forgiven, she was told.

However, local cops went for a summary trial which, “normally handles misdemeanors subject to fines of less than 200,000 won,” says the story, and, “The court slapped the teenager with a 50,000 won.”

Adds the JoongAng Daily »»»

A copyright violation can be punished up to five year imprisonment or up to 50 million won in fines, but the police and the court treated the case as a misdemeanor because she was a minor and it was her first time offence.Police argue that summary trials are important to keep lawyers off the backs of minors and their families. Lawyers and copyright holders, however, see things differently. They fear police are taking a serious matter too lightly.

According to police, lawyers have found a lucrative new market in suing teens for illegally sharing digital files. There were 13,114 such petitions in 2006. The number leapt to 78,538 in 2008. Police said the petitions were filed indiscriminately and youngsters, not those who violate copyright with malicious intent or for profit-making, have become victims. “Law firms even hired part-time staffers to track down copyright violators on the Internet,” said an official of the Daejeon police. “And then, they contacted the copyright holders to notify them about the cases and volunteered to represent them.”

Though many youngsters are unaware of their offense while maintaining their blogs or homepages, parents are often left to foot the bill. They want to prevent their children from becoming convicts, the police official said.

Predictably, however, Korea Music Copyright Association [read KRIAA] employee Yu Hyeong-seok doesn’t see things that way, observing, “the fundamental problem is the portal sites, which turn a blind eye to the kids’ copyright violations while raking in enormous profits.”

In the US, a federal judge has just ruled files shared don’t equal sales last.

Link Here

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