Major Affairs in Korean Publishing Policy in 2021
Last year had been a particularly tough year for the Korean publishing industry due to several issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the bankruptcy of Interpark Song-in Books Corp., fixed book price policy, the Cloud Bread writer’s loss in a lawsuit, and several other incidents that violated the freedom of publishing. Various policies are also scheduled to change in 2021 including a revision of copyright law, which is expected to transform the publishing environment. While it is highly important to narrow down the difference in ideas and find a way for coexistence regarding cases that have many interests entangled in the publishing and cultural industry, it seems that such cases will take place quite often this year. This section covers significant affairs related to the law revision currently under discussion and publishing policies.
Introduction of Additional Claim for Compensation
Korea’s 21st National Assembly has proposed two kinds of amendments to the copyright law related to the revision of copyright contracts. The first one is the revision of the copyright law initiated by lawmaker Noh Woong-Rae on November 24, 2020, and the overall amendment of the copyright law initiated by lawmaker Do Jong-Hwan on January 15, 2021. The two amendments have a common aspect: they aim to establish a mechanism that can reinforce creators' rights. The proposal of lawmaker Noh mainly focuses on the “right compensation” for the copyright holder. In contrast, the other proposal by lawmaker Do covers mostly the new addition of the “Additional Claim for Compensation.”
The Publishing Industry Adopts “Integrated Standard Contracts”
On January 15, 2021, heads of publishing organizations, including the Korean Publishers Association, announced the “Integrated Standard Contract.” This contract is an integrated, improved version of different standard contracts used by publishing groups. However, it is at the center of conflict between authors and publishers for its content.
Controversy over public libraries’ e-book lending services
In February 2021, the publishing industry raised an issue that public libraries’ e-book lending services are against copyright law. Public libraries run by the office of education and local governments established an e-book service system in representative libraries and have been expanding the e-book lending service where libraries share e-books each of them has. Currently, the publishing industry is urging the libraries to stop the service as it is violating the copyright law. The libraries are opposing this argument saying that they have been providing the e-book lending service under the lawful procedure, and therefore they have not violated the copyright law. As such, the dispute surrounding how the law can be interpreted is likely to intensify.
Implementation of the Artist Employment Insurance Law
In 2020, the National Assembly passed the “Artist Employment Insurance Law” that allows artists to benefit from the employment insurance law. The new law enables artists in the blind spots of the employment insurance law to receive unemployment benefits and perinatal wages if they sign a contract related to workers providing culture and art service and pay insurance fees for a certain period. However, as the types and forms of contracts in the culture and art industry are complex and vary significantly, and as the interests of artists and business owners have to be reflected at the same time, it had been a controversial issue until the enforcement ordinance was enacted. The Artist Employment Insurance Law took effect in December 2020, and eligible workers include literary writers, critics, translators, and others in the publishing business and illustrators, designers, editors, translators, and others in the outsourcing part of the industry.
Establishment of the 5th Basic Plan for Promoting Publishing and Culture Industry (2022-2026)
The “Publishing Industry Promotion Act” urges the establishment and implementation of a basic plan for promoting the publishing and culture industry every 5 years. In 2021, studies and discussions for the 5th plan will take place. The 4th plan included 6 major plans: the establishment of an advanced system for publishing and distribution, expansion of the Korean Publishing Foundation fund and investment facilitation, legislative improvement friendly to the publishing industry and establishment of a publication research center, facilitation of publishing content’s usage and fostering small- to medium-sized publishers, support for “publishing Hallyu (Korean Wave)” and designation of the year 2018 as the “Year of Books” while promoting reading campaigns. It is necessary to assess and analyze thoroughly how much progress these plans have made, and the causes of failure if a policy could not be implemented. In this respect, it is vital for the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and publishing organizations to cooperate in a bid to make the 5th Basic Plan for Promoting Publishing and Culture Industry a practical help for the overall development of the publishing industry by reflecting the various voices and changes in the publishing industry.
Written by Jung Won-Ok (Senior Researcher at the Korea Publishing Policy Research Institute of the Korean Publishers Association(KPA))
Jung Won-Ok (Senior Researcher at the Korea Publishing Policy Research Institute of the Korean Publishers Association(KPA))