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Supreme Court of Korea Ruled Music DRM Does Not Violate Competition Law – Abuse of Dominant Market Position in Mobile Phone and Music Download Service

There have been disputes as to whether Digital Rights Management(DRM) does violate competition law.  By using a DRM, the company can tie the playback of certain digital files to its own IT device.  The problem arises when the company has a dominant market position, because it entails an argument from competitors that the company has abused its dominant market position to distort a free competition at the market.

In November last year, the Supreme Court of Korea firstly issued a ruling addressing this issue.  The case dates back to 2006, when Fair Trade Commission(FTC) of South Korea ordered SK Telecom, the largest mobile carrier company and music download service provider, to lift up a DRM which had prevented the purchasers of MP3 mobile phone of SK Telecom from playing MP3 files downloaded from other online music store that SK Telecom does not operate.  SK Telecom had appealed the FTC’s decision to the court.

At the heart of this lawsuit lies the issue of whether SK Telecom’s use of DRM does constitute an abuse of its dominant market position under Korean Competition law.  In this regard, the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act(MRFTA) of Korea provides that any market dominant enterpriser shall not commit an act of either (i) unreasonably interfering with the business activities of other enterprisers or (ii) unreasonably doing considerable harm to the interests of consumers.  The FTC found SK Telecom’s using a DRM Continue reading


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Court Rulings on the legality of Internet-Based TV Recording Service and Time/Place-Shifting Device Hosting Service – Korea, Japan, Singapore and the U.S.

There exist growing needs for consumers to watch TV broadcastings from any place and by any way they want.  In response to these needs, several new business models have come into; for example, an Internet TV recording and/or streaming service, RS-DVR, SlingBox and any other place/time-shifting devices hosting services.  But the problem is that copyright holders, the TV broadcasting companies, are fiercely objecting to these new business models contending they are infringing their copyrights.  It is quite interesting for an IP lawyer to see how the courts from various countries have found the answer to this legal issue.

Lets’ start with the situation in South Korea, where I’m practicing the law.  Actually there have been two cases related to this issue; Ental TV case and MyTV caseEntal TV was an Internet-based TV recording service.  The registered users paid some amount of fees to the service provider and the service provider recorded TV broadcastings on its server at the request of the individual users with its automated software program, then converted it into the PC file format and sent the file to the user via Internet.  On April 30, 2009, the Seoul High Court ruled this Ental TV service infringed copyright of the TV Broadcasters.  The court found that it was the service provider, not an individual user, who recorded and copied the TV program, because the service provider owned and managed all the facilities used in recording the TV program.  Also the Court added that even though it was the individual user who copied the TV program, the very act of copying Continue reading


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Google Raided By South Korea Police In Street View Probe

South Korean police raided Google’s Seoul office on August 2 on suspicion that Google’s Seoul office has illegally gathered personal information for its street mapping service.  The Korean police is investigating whether Google has violated “Protection of Communications Secrets Act”(PCSA) or “Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection”.

For example, according to the PCSA, no person shall censor any mail, wiretap any telecommunications, provide the communication confirmation data, record or listen to conversations between others that are not made public.  It is reported that Continue reading