The Korea Herald


New government initiative offers W3b reward to combat digital piracy

By Moon Ki Hoon

Published : Oct. 17, 2023 - 15:44

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Logo of Anti-corruption & Civil Rights Commission, South Korea's anti-corruption watchdog body (ACRC) Logo of Anti-corruption & Civil Rights Commission, South Korea's anti-corruption watchdog body (ACRC)

In a move to counter escalating copyright infringement issues, the South Korean government announced on Tuesday a reward initiative for whistleblowers of pirate websites, offering up to 3 billion won ($2.2 million) in compensation. The initiative, jointly led by the Anti-corruption & Civil Rights Commission and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, seeks to bolster efforts against illegal streaming and sharing that undermines the country's thriving digital content industry.

Individuals reporting illicit content sharing will be eligible for protection under the Public Interest Whistleblower Protection Act. In particular, insiders whose tips lead to successful prosecution or recovery of funds may receive financial rewards of up to 3 billion won each. Those involved in piracy may face reduced penalties for providing information.

Whistleblowers can submit their tips via the Anti-corruption Commission or the Korea Copyright Protection Agency websites, with the commission providing free legal assistance to those seeking anonymity.

With smash hit films and TV series and the country's online comics platform Webtoon operated by internet giant Naver gaining traction worldwide, South Korean entertainment has catapulted to the global mainstream in recent years. But as the industry's value grows, so does the risk of piracy and unauthorized distribution. In 2021 alone, piracy led to an estimated revenue loss of 850 billion won for Webtoon, amounting to half its total market share, according to Culture Ministry data.

Recent controversy surrounding Noonoo TV, the country's leading pirate streaming platform, brought the widespread and deep-rooted issue of systematic copyright theft to public attention. Accumulating 1.5 billion views for pirated content, the website is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in losses for legitimate broadcasters and platforms.

In response, a coalition of major broadcasters and platform businesses filed a criminal complaint against the domain, leading to its shutdown in April. The government has since launched a multi-agency task force to address piracy issues, but similar platforms have continued to emerge, distributing pirated content across various mediums.