South Korea has long been associated with some of the fastest average Internet connection speeds available anywhere in the world. The country topped the list in 2017 and is still a key player today.
While fast Internet speeds are great for average users, Internet pirates are always particularly grateful for speedy transfers and those in South Korea are no different. As a result, authorities in the country have been under pressure to do something about piracy rates.
In an announcement this week, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism revealed that specialist Intellectual Property Rights police shut down 25 pirate sites in 2018, adding that the operators of 13 had been arrested. Some will face criminal proceedings alongside claims for civil damages, reports suggest.
One of the largest targets appears to have been Marumaru, a local site that specialized in Japanese manga content. After being founded in 2013, Marumaru grew at an impressive rate, allegedly earning around a million dollars in advertising revenue while offering an estimated 42,000 copyrighted manga works.
Last November, however, the show came to an end after the platform was shut down. A month later, two alleged operators of the site were charged with copyright infringement offenses.
South Korea’s commitment to tackling piracy appears to be hardening. This week the Korea Communications Standards Commission said it had launched a special unit (Copyright Infringement Response Team) to tackle pirate sites in order to protect local industries.
In common with similar initiatives in other regions, the aim is to target platforms based overseas that are claimed to be out of local authorities’ reach. It’s no surprise that web-blocking is considered part of the solution.
The KCSC said that it blocked around 50 websites to 2014 but last year that total had risen to 2,338. A 2018 report from the MPA (pdf), that studied South Korea’s blocking regime, declared that the practice meant that “total visits to piracy sites declined following each wave of site blocking.”
It now appears that even more stringent steps will be taken to prevent direct visits to pirate sites. The ‘Response Team’ has been tasked with monitoring pirate sites “round the clock” in order to provide a “rapid and strong response” to infringement and evasive action by site operators.
Sites that spring up to facilitate access to previously-blocked sites, such as mirrors and proxies, will be dealt with within four days, with complaints from rightsholders actioned within the same time-frame.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is promising to continue the crackdown for years to come and indicates it will work also with foreign authorities to tackle all types of pirate sites.