Piracy problem still plagues Asia

Illegal downloads impacted market price of 'Haeundae'

BUSAN -- Asia’s legal framework for tackling copyright theft is improving, but the problem of piracy remains a major problem within the region.
Delegates at Friday’s seminar on intellectual property protection in Busan heard that governments and private sector agencies are successfully working together to toughen copyright laws and that enforcement is increasingly a matter of cross-border action.
In April, the Korean government passed “three strikes” legislation that allows agencies to suspend Internet access of persistent heavy uploaders. Japan has enacted anti-camcording laws and the Content Owners Distribution Assn. recently signed a cooperative deal with similar industry bodies in the U.S.
As a result, speakers said they were optimistic about the fight against piracy and Chung Hongtaek, chairman of the Copyright Protection Center, claimed that copyright infringement in Korea is down by a quarter compared with 2006.
He cited, as an example of government measures, the Illegal Copyrights Obstruction Program, a device that traces unauthorized audio content on the Web and blocks the reproduction and transfer of the files. The copyright center is also collaborating with its branch offices in Beijing and Bangkok on legal measures.
But the seriousness of the problem was underlined by the recent leaking of a digital copy of CJ Entertainment’s Busan-set thriller “Haeundae.” At one point, downloads were running at more than 100,000 per day and losses to CJ have been estimated at 20 billion-30 billion won ($17.2-25.8 million). DVDs with subtitles produced by pirate distributors were also available within days in China.
Mike Ellis, Asia chief for the Motion Picture Assn., said that the “Haeundae” incident, proved that demand for Asian films is there and that people are prepared to steal.
However, it also demonstrated the possibilities of enforcement. Swift response at the ISP level in Korea and reciprocal action by the authorities in China meant that the pirate distribution was quickly halted and the film has become of Korea’s all time top three movies with over 10 million tickets sold. (It was probably no coincidence that CJ was the seminar’s organizer and sponsor.)
While the seminar focused on the legal aspects of piracy, the film industry is also increasingly employing technology measures to track, if not prevent, theft. Yoda Naoshi, executive director of Japanese distributor T-Joy, said that his company will digitize all its cinemas by July next year and employ sophisticated watermarking. Chung expects to go even further.
In the afternoon, high-profile Korean actors including Jang Dong-kun (“Good Morning President”) and Ha Ji-won (“Haeundae”) lined up near Haeundae beach to promote the “Good Downloader’s Campaign,” which uses an interactive device that invites festival visitors to play with celebrities appearing in the touch-screen monitor as a sign of participating in the campaign.
“We hope the campaign stresses in a positive way that there are still alternatives to downloading,” said Muhn Hae-ju, the vice-chairwoman of the campaign. “It’s good timing, given that more Korean sites like Paran and Bugs are participating in providing online distribution services. Hopefully, we can resolve some of the confusion about what’s legal and illegal.”
Meanwhile, local prosecutors arrested two suspects Thursday who are allegedly responsible for circulating the film “Haeundae” on the Web.
“We’ve even been asked by a European buyer to cut down the film’s license fee after the incident broke out,” said Katharine Kim, the CEO of CJ Entertainment.

“The practical loss of the incident exceeds the amount that’s announced in the media. The users’ attitude is really problematic. There’s not even a slight awareness that this is an illegal activity.”