Friday, November 27, 2009

Notes from the Meeting between Civil Society Organization Members and Korean Government (MCST)

Notes from the Meeting between Civil Society Organization Members and Korean Government (MCST)

November 27, 2009

MCST: Why national civil society groups are interested in the proposed WIPO Treaty? What makes CSO members take part in such a movement?

CSO: Although Korean domestic laws already have provisions similar to the proposed WIPO Treaty, access to foreign works can be enhanced by the proposed WIPO Treaty. Our participation is also vital for the shared aims of people with reading disabilities all over the world.

MCST: Korean delegation is "supportive" of the proposed WIPO Treaty and hopes the proposal will become an international treaty as proposed, rather than weakened. One of the concerns is that some delegations =96 including that of the US =96 worry that the proposed WIPO Treaty may encourage copyright infringements, which are already prevalent. If such concern is not relaxed, entering into a treaty is to be delayed. Furthermore, since the WIPO Internet Treaty of 1996 we have not seen any other treaty concluded within the WIPO (e.g. the broadcasting treaty); getting agreement on such a treaty for people with reading disabilities is also difficult. But the text of a treaty is already on the table and this is a good start.

MCST: Concerning the "alternative ways" to which the Korean delegation referred at the WIPO meeting, the MCST has no clear ideas about what exactly these =93alternative ways=94 are, and the Korean delegation is not in a position to oppose the proposed WIPO Treaty. When the WIPO discusses a treaty, any urgent efforts by the WIPO necessary for helping people with reading disabilities are likely to be halted because the WIPO is an intergovernmental organization with limited resources. [On the other hand, according to a local news story (, the "alternative ways" may include "recommendations" which are easier to agree on than a treaty that may take more than 10 years, says an official of the MCST.

CSO: Our concern is that many industrialized countries have indirectly expressed their opposition and that the Korean government has frequently followed the U.S. position. So the statement on "alternative ways" seems to be no different from such indirect opposition. Nonetheless, we welcome if the MCST is in a supportive position and demand a clear expression of support from the Korean delegation at the next session of the SCCR.

MCST: Concerning domestic policy on people with reading disabilities, publishers still oppose the recently revised provisions in the Copyright Act regarding copyright limitation for such people. Thus the MCST focuses more on practical issues such as how to ensure the prevention of copyright infringement in the process of converting copyrighted works into an accessible format for people with reading disabilities.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Open Letter to the Korean Government Concerning the Proposed WIPO Treaty for People with Reading Disabilities

Open Letter to the Korean Government Concerning the Proposed WIPO Treaty for People with Reading Disabilities

The 18th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was held on 25 to 29 May 2009. During this session, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay proposed official discussions on the WIPO Treaty for Improved Access for Blind, Visually Impaired and Other Persons with Reading Disabilities (the proposed WIPO Treaty), which was presented by the World Blind Union last year.

It is widely accepted that a number of people with reading disabilities throughout the world have suffered from restriction in self-development and social participation due to limited access to copyrighted works. Constructing social conditions in which people with reading disabilities can equally participate in the cultural life and enjoy scientific advancement and its benefits is not only a legitimate right of these people, but also an obligation of the state. As a way of fulfilling this obligation, South Korea has tried, like some other states, to ensure rights of people with reading disabilities through the provision of limitations on copyright in the Copyright Act. Yet copyright provisions differ from one country to the next, and efforts to protect people's right to access in different countries has been constrained. It is therefore necessary to establish an internationally applied rule regarding minimum standards on copyright limitations for people with reading disabilities. This is also vital for striking a fair balance between the protection of copyright and the fair use of copyrighted works, which is inherent and essential in a copyright system.

Considering this, we ask the following questions on the position of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) in connection with the proposed WIPO Treaty.

(1) At the 18th session of the SCCR, the Korean delegation, while admitting the importance of enhancing access to copyrighted works by people with reading disabilities, supported "alternative ways", rather than negotiating a treaty. What does the MCST actually mean by "alternative ways" that can enhance the right to access of people with reading disabilities in an effective and sustainable manner, as
opposed to temporary assistance for these people?

(2) What is the reason for the position of the MCST and the Korean delegation supporting "alternative ways" rather than a treaty?

(3) Has the MCST, as an executive branch in charge of copyright policies, conducted a detailed review of the proposed WIPO Treaty? We ask that any review be made public.

(4) Does the MCST consider the proposed WIPO Treaty to be in conflict with any provisions of the Korea Copyright Act?

(5) We believe that the proposed WIPO Treaty can be negotiated in parallel with any efforts seeking to enhance access to information for people with reading disabilities. International efforts to improve access to information for people with reading disabilities started several years ago, and relevant discussions within the WIPO began in 2003. We hardly see any reason to delay discussions on an international treaty for that purpose.

We would like to know if the MCST and the Korean delegation to the WIPO intend to clearly express strong support for the proposed WIPO Treaty.

November 4, 2009

Disability Discrimination Act of Solidarity in Korea (DDASK) IPLeft (Intellectual Property Left)