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Major Affairs in Korean Publishing Policy in 2021

 

2021.03.08

 

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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.

 

For cases where many interests are intertwined, it is critical to find a way to narrow down the difference in thoughts and make harmony.

 

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 “Additional Claim for Compensation” included in the overall amendment of the copyright law proposed by lawmaker Do has particularly been the focus of attention as background to the “Cloud Bread” case. This case set off a controversy over the contract being unfair as Baek Hee-Na, the original author of Cloud Bread (Hansol Education – Hansol Subook), only earned 18.5 million won while her work produced a total of 440 billion won worth of added value. Even though it has been clarified later that the amount being 440 billion won is false information and the judge ruled that the contract was not disadvantageous for the writer in 2020, the “Cloud Bread” case left a task for Korea’s publishing industry to inspect and improve their current contract practice.
The publishing industry agrees to the fact that the contract practice needs improvement by announcing papers such as “Study on Ways to Improve “Sellout” Contracts and Copyright Transfer Contracts in the Publishing Industry”. However, they seem to be opposing the introduction of the “Additional Claim for Compensation.” They argue that this policy may harm the principles of free contract and observance, hamper efforts to discover new authors, and contract investment in book publishing. Also, as the law is not in line with the “copyright transfer” part of the Korean Copyright Law, fierce disputes and discussions are likely to occur until the amendment is made. 

 

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.
The most disputed part of the contract is that it sets 10 years for the contract period of “publishing right (paper book)” and “exclusive publication (e-book).” The publishers claim that it is necessary to adjust the contract period in order to collect the expenses they put in to various content and ensure a stable investment from the business perspective, and ensure that the authors have a stable income. However, the writers strongly oppose this idea that extending the contract period to 10 years from 5 years is an infringement of copyright and an unfair clause.
Meanwhile, on January 29, 2021, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism administratively announced 10 standard contract formats for the publishing industry and confirmed the final version of the standard contract in February after collecting feedback. The publishing industry made their position clear after the Ministry’s announcement that they will fix the “Integrated Standard Contract” after having negotiations with the writers’ groups. 

 

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.
The publishing industry has constantly been bringing up the issue that the clause for libraries’ permanent possession of e-books in the B2B contract is particularly unfair, let alone the inter-library e-book lending service. Hence, the libraries need to come together with the publishing industry and come up with a solution that can satisfy both library users and the sustainability of the e-book publication ecosystem even though they might be perplexed by their argument. Meanwhile, the two bodies agreed on operating the “Consultative Organization for the Coexistence of Libraries and Publishers” in 2021, and have completed organizing its members. 

 

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))

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Jung Won-Ok (Senior Researcher at the Korea Publishing Policy Research Institute of the Korean Publishers Association(KPA))

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