South Korea's Myung Film Sues Over Movie File-Sharing

The makers of "Architecture 101" hope unprecedented civil action can help raise piracy awareness.

South Korea’s Myung Film filed a lawsuit Wednesday against 12 individuals and a firm involved in leaking the local box office hit Architecture 101. The civil action is an unprecedented move, as defendants have already been indicted without detention last month.

“Police and prosecution investigations have revealed that the defendants did not illegally leak the movie for financial profit,” said a spokesperson for Myung Film. “However, we decided to take civil action in order to defend the rights and interests of the film’s investors and creators, and to raise public awareness about the importance of copyright protection.”

An employee of a company that organizes film screenings breached copyright laws by sharing a preview version of Architecture 101 with a friend. The movie was passed onto acquaintances before ending up on an online file-sharing service in May.

Though the retro romance by Lee Yong-zoo became the 10th most watched movie in Korea this year, with over 4.1 million in admissions, Myung Film says the piracy resulted in damages of an estimated 7.5 billion won (around $6.79 million). The movie was downloaded over 300,000 times by Internet users in just eight days.

Movie piracy is a prevalent problem in Korea, the most wired country in the world with over 40 million Internet users among a population of 50 million. Most notably CJ Entertainment lost 32 billion won (about $29 million) when the tsunami blockbuster Tidal Wave (Haeudae) leaked online in 2009. CJ Group did not, however, file a civil suit.

Local authorities have toughened measures against cyber crime, while major studios, film organizations and cineastes have joined forces to address piracy issues through the “Good Downloader” campaign.