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  • Copyright Protection for Works of Foreigners

    1) Works by foreigners can be protected in accordance with the treaties to which the Republic of Korea has acceded or ratified. Works by foreigners who permanently reside in the Republic of Korea (e.g., stateless persons and foreign legal persons having their principal offices in the Republic of Korea) and whose works were first made public in the Republic of Korea within thirty days after the day the works were made public in a foreign country shall be protected under the Copyright Act.

    2) When a foreign country does not protect the works of nationals of the Republic of Korea, protection of works by nationals from that foreign country can be correspondingly restricted in accordance with treaties and the Copyright Act. Even in this case, this restriction would not be applied to those who permanently reside in the Republic of Korea and stateless persons. This is called the principle of reciprocity. For instance, if computer programs are not subject to copyright protection in a foreign country that is party to a treaty to which the Republic of Korea has acceded, the Republic of Korea does not have to protect such a computer program created by an author having the nationality of that foreign country.

    3) An author’s copyright for a work is protected during the author’s lifetime, and the economic rights to such a work continue to subsist until the end of a period of 70 years after the death of the author. When determining the term of an author's economic rights, this term starts from the following year of either the death of the author, the creation of the work or the making public of the work. In the case of a joint-authorship work, the author’s economic rights would continue to subsist for a period of 70 years after the death of the last surviving co-author.

    4) Registering copyright of a work is not required to protect the copyright as such protection is automatically effective upon creation of the work. Such copyright registration, however, provides some benefits. Most of all, the copyright holder and creation or publication date are presumed to be those registered. Seeking statutory damages is available against infringement of a registered copyright and the registered copyright can also be recorded with the Customs Office to control the border against suspected copyright infringement. In addition, any person who infringes upon registered copyrights, shall be presumed to have been negligent at least in his/her act of infringement.

    Transfer (except for inheritance or other successions in general) of an author’s economic rights or restriction of the disposal of such economic rights may be registered. Indeed, the registration is required to be effective against any third party having conflicting legal interests. Copyright registration is handled by the Korea Copyright Commission.

  • Economic rights

    1) An author’s economic rights are rights of an author to exclusively use their works, either by themselves or by licensing others to use the works, so as to earn a commercial gain from exploitation of the works. Such economic rights are transferable in part or as a whole, and they can be transferred within limited terms and areas. Once a right is transferred, the author loses his or her privileges, and the new property copyright holder obtains, by the transfer, legal control over the transferred work.

    For the purpose of public interest (promoting the fair use of works in order to contribute to the improvement and development of culture and related industries), the economic rights can be limited in certain circumstances, such as use for the purpose of school education and reproduction for private use, as the Copyright Act stipulates.

    2) The author of a copyright work has the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit the following acts: reproduction, performance, public transmission, exhibition, distribution, rental, and production of derivative works. These seven types of economic property rights recognized by the Copyright Act may be defined as follows.

    (i) Reproduction right

    This is a right to reproduce a work. Such reproduction refers to temporarily or permanently fixing the work in a tangible medium by means of printing, photographing, copying, sound or visual recording, or other means. In the case of an architectural work, carrying out construction in accordance with the models or plans for the relevant construction work is also considered reproduction.

    (ii) Performance right

    This right is to perform an author’s work publicly. Such public performance means presenting to the public works, performances, phonograms or broadcasts by acting, musical playing, singing, narrating, reciting, screening, playback or other means. For example, performing a play in a theatre and showing films in public. Public performance also includes transmission (excluding interactive transmission) made in connected premises in the possession of the same person.

    (iii) Right of public transmission

    This is the right to transmit works to the public. Such public transmission refers to transmission of stage performances, phonograms, broadcasts or database by making such a work available to the public via wire or wireless means, so that the public may receive them or have access to them.

    Broadcasting, interactive transmission and digital sound transmission are included in public transmission. In this context, “broadcasting” means transmitting sound or images, or sound and images so that the public may receive them at the same time. “Interactive transmission” means making works, etc. available to the public in such a way that members of the public may access them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them, and includes the transmissions that occur thereby. An example of such interactive transmission are uploading of copyrighted works. “Digital sound transmission” means the transmission of sounds in a digital format which is commenced upon the request of members of the public intended for simultaneous reception by the public. The digital sound transmission explicitly excludes interactive transmission. A classic example of such digital sound transmission is webcasting.

    (iv) Exhibition right

    This is the “right to exhibit” the original or a copy of the original work. Exhibit is construed as referring to a display or post of an original or a copy of the work in a condition where the public may see it freely.

    (v) Distribution right

    This is the right to either transfer by assignment or rental of an original or a copy of a work to the public, for free or at a charge. This right is only applied to the first time a copy of a work is offered for commercial transaction, and so the re-sale of the copy cannot be prevented.

    (vi) Right of Rental

    An author shall have the right to authorize the commercial rental of phonograms made public or programs made public for the pursuit of profit.

    (vii) Right of production of derivative works

    This is the right to produce and use a derivative work based on his/her original work. Derivative work refers to creative work produced by means of translation, arrangement, alteration, dramatization, cinematization, etc. of an original work and such derivative works, and shall be protected as an independent work. Even though a derivative work is protected as an independent work, permission from the author of the original work is required to produce the derivative work as the derivative work contains the content of the original.

  • Moral Rights

    1) An author’s moral rights are personal rights to protect the author's honor and non-economic interests. An author’s works often means more than the economic value they obtain from their exploitation of the works, and the works are closely related to the individual author who creates them, as the author is emotionally and intellectually devoted to producing the work.
    Moral rights can be exercised only by the author, and cannot be sold or otherwise transferred, unlike economic rights.

    2) The specific types of moral rights recognized by the Copyright Act are as follows.

    (i) Right of making public

    An author has the right to decide whether or not to make his/her work public. If the author has transferred his/her economic right of a work which is not yet made public, authorized use of the work, or established the exclusive publication rights or print-publication rights, the author shall be presumed to have given the other party his/her consent to make it public. If the author transferred ownership of an original of the work of art, architectural work, or photographic work not yet made public, the author shall be presumed to have given the other party his/her consent to make the original public in the manner of exhibition. If a derivative work or compilation work, made with the consent of the author, has been made public, its original shall be also considered to have been made public. When the author donates his/her pieces of unpublished work, etc. to libraries, etc., it shall be presumed that the author consents to making them public at the time of his/her donation unless otherwise expressly stated.

    (ii) Right of Attribution

    An author has the right to indicate his/her real name or pseudonym on an original work or its copy, or on a medium by which his/her work is made public. Unless any specific intention of the author is expressed, a person using the author’s work shall indicate his/her real name or pseudonym in the same manner as the author has indicated it. However, this right cannot be applied in some unavoidable cases in light of the nature of a work, the purpose and manner of its use, etc.

    (iii) Right of Integrity

    An author shall have the right to maintain the integrity of the content, form, and title of his/her work. However, an author shall not raise an objection to any of the following circumstances: (a) a modification of expression within the limits as deemed unavoidable for the purpose of school education; (b) extension, rebuilding, or other alteration of architectural structure; (c) modification within the limits as deemed necessary to enable programs that can be used only on specific computers to be used on other computers; (d) modification within the limits as deemed necessary to use programs more effectively on specific computers; and (e) other modifications within the limits as deemed unavoidable in light of the nature of a work, the purpose and manner of its use, etc., provided that the modification does not amount to the modification of substantial contents.

    3) When there is intentional or unintentional infringement of a personal copyright, an author is entitled to claim for damages. An author or performer also may claim for restoring his or her own honor and dignity, in lieu of or together with the damage claim. In the event of the author's death, when there is infringement on the author’s moral rights, the author’s bereaved family (the surviving spouse, children, parents, grand children, grandparents, or brothers and sisters) or the legal executor can demand to cease and desist the infringement and to take preventive measures or to provide security for compensation for possible damages against an infringing person, and also can demand restoration of the author’s honor or reputation.