“Do Not Re-Upload! If we found [sic] out that the — clip is re-uploaded, we won’t share a — clip again!” - Seen on YouTube (video uploaded on December 18, 2011).
“Credits and shot by b——y. For foreign fans: Please DO NOT modify the film and DO NOT take out without permission. – Please take out with full credits and don’t add yours [sic] credit in photo. – Do not modify the film & don’t cut the logo.” - Seen on YouTube (video uploaded on February 9, 2012).
“[Korea Data Blackout] is a movement of support for administrators of Korean fansites as well as fans all around the world who work very hard …to provide pictures and videos of Korean artists. It is also a movement to make international fans realize just how much these people provide to their fandom experience…and to help them understand how important it is to follow their rules.” - Korean Data Blackout website, September 2012.
Earlier this year KPK published an essay about American law-makers’ attempt to pass a bill that would hinder the free flow of information on the Internet. Described as a piece of legislation that would protect copyright on the World Wide Web – with particular regard to how those protections manifest outside the United States – the bill was deemed too far reaching in its scope, targeting websites who so much as linked to questionable information with severe penalties.
Businesses like Google and Wikipedia staged “blackouts” (as well as other sites, including the international Kpop fansite Eat Your Kimchi), wherein access to all or parts of a website was temporarily shut down. This was done to show what would happen if the bill had passed: access to information would have been seriously compromised in ways that the creators of the bill could not have estimated. Internet users understood the shaky path of this legislation, and, although access to information is continuously challenged, they used their voices to make sure this way was blocked.
More recently, this same tactic – a blackout – was used by a Kpop fan community on Tumblr. This movement, called the Korean Data Blackout, lasted for ten days during September 2012, and was created to support Kpop website owners who provide Kpop media (fantaken media) to international fans. Specifically, the movement hoped to help international Kpop fans understand the central role that these fans play in providing graphics and videos to the Kpop fan community at-large, and to help Kpop fans understand how important it is to these website owners that their rules be followed. You can view the Digitally Documented web site here.
Two Rules, Many (Useless) Statements
What are the rules of fantaken Kpop media? A cursory glimpse of fancams (video taken of live performances), photo scans (items scanned from hard-to-get entertainment and fashion magazines), and Korean variety program videos to which various language translations have been added (“hard-subbed”) all reveal that there are generally two rules. Kpop fans who enjoy these media are familiar with these two rules, which are codified by several phrases:
Kpop Fantaken Content Rule 1: Don’t Steal, Change, or Use My Stuff (If You Do, Please Give Me Credit)!!!!
- “Do NOT re-upload”
- “Take out with full credits/take out with proper credits”
- “Do not use (my) [stuff] without my permission”
- “Do not re-edit”
Kpop Fantaken Content Rule 2: I Took, Changed, Distributed, or Used Some Stuff That’s Not Mine Without Asking for Permission. But I Did It to Promote Kpop! So Please Pretend You Didn’t Notice…
- “No copyright infringement intended”
- “Do not use my stuff without my permission”*
- “Do not use ‘our subs’”
- “Take out with full/proper credits”
- “I do not own rights to this this song (or image, or show), all rights to …”
- “Please don’t mention the real name of this show”
- $tΔΓ G0∫dεn ßεLL (intentionally disguising show names to avoid copyright infringement claims)
Beyond misrepresenting the context in which they’ve chosen to pursue their work (producing the work of their own volition, for their own pleasure, and presumably for the joy of sharing with the Kpop community) and misunderstanding the nature of information flows of various international communities, those who participated in the Korean Data Blackout or who add these statements to videos and photos miss the real issue, which has nothing to do with Kpop fandom rules, and everything to do with copyright.
A System in Place
The main reason the Korean Data Blackout movement overstepped its mission is because there is already a system in place for those who want to retain certain rights over original items that they have created and published on the Internet: it’s called Creative Commons (CC). Reading this blog, you’ve seen our CC licenses at the end of our essays (there is one at the end of this piece). CC offers several kinds of copyright licenses that not only protect ownership of of creative work, but tell people who interact with and would like to use the content how they can use it. There are six levels of licensing, from Attribution (the most lax) to Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (most restrictive). Provided the original content is theirs (not a KBS program, or a YG DVD of a BigBang concert, or a footage of a K-drama), Kpop fan content creators who are concerned about carrying out Rule 1 should find that the most the most restrictive CC license fits most of their needs.
It should be noted that most Kpop fan-created videos are uploaded to YouTube, which does offer a CC licensing option, but it is the most lax, and users have to choose the license. If they don’t, their video is assigned YouTube’s Standard license. YouTube’s Terms of Service (6C) state that the default Standard YouTube license retains the video owner’s copyright, and it also asserts that users who upload videos “grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service.” Additionally, these terms ”grant each user of the Service (Kpop fans, for instance) a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service…”
Therefore, Kpop fans who create their own content and would like other Kpop fans to adhere to Rule 1 should consider other alternatives to the popular video sharing website service in order to ensure they retain all rights – including distribution control – to their creative productions.
The other concern with the Korean Data Blackout is the contingency of Kpop fans who believe that the content they do not own, but augment and distribute in the name of “spreading Kpop love,” also falls under the “fantaken” label, even though logically they realize that something is amiss (hence the imploring requests for mercy).
Plenty of international Kpop fan content has been taken from other places like Korean media channels and re-purposed, usually to add translations in different languages, sometimes to distribute CD tracks, and other times just to offer a different portal to watch Korean television music programs and performances. In these cases, Kpop viewers are more likely to see comments from Rule 2. While there is a plethora of re-purposed Kpop content on the Internet, there are tell-tale signs that Korean entertainment and broadcasting companies continue to actively seek out and challenge channels or individual videos that reflect these kinds of productions. Additionally, Korean media and entertainment companies have created their own YouTube channels – partly a response to attempt to lower copyright infringement of their original programming and products.
In addition to blatant copyright infringement, Rule 2 Kpop fans violate YouTube’s Terms of Service (6D), which states: “You further agree that Content you submit to the Service will not contain third party copyrighted material, or material that is subject to other third party proprietary rights, unless you have permission from the rightful owner of the material or you are otherwise legally entitled to post the material and to grant YouTube all of the license rights granted herein.” Other video sharing sites like Vimeo offer similar stipulations.
Unfortunately, Kpop fans who augment or enhance videos, television broadcasts, and other third party content with their own logos and language translations (or for the purpose of music distribution) and shore up these productions with Rule 2 statements are not protected in any way from claims of copyright infringement.
A Washed Up Blackout
There is no doubt that Kpop fans who share their fancams, offer up their multilingual skills, and keep other Kpop fans posted on the whereabouts of popular Korean music groups and artists are an important and vital part of the promotion and development of Hallyu as it moves outside of Asia and into the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Unfortunately, the creators of the Korean Data Blackout Movement underestimated the depth and breadth of ways Kpop fans locate, access, and retrieve Kpop information and media. Furthermore, that underestimation was compounded by an attempt to create a context that conflated “rules of Kpop fandom” with the law of copyright. Considering the Kpop fans who make no exclusionary statements about their fancams (Iam Cosmicaa) and legitimate businesses that offer Kpop fans ways to enjoy Korean Cultural Content (DramaFever, Viki), perhaps Kpop fans who are that concerned about getting credit for their work should use the protections that are available to them or come together en masse to create processes that benefit them and the Korean media companies with whom they are currently in conflict.
In the end, the only true rule of Hallyu Fandom is this: Kpop is Love. While Kpop fans create and/or distribute content so that more people may enjoy it, truly loving something implies a willingness to protect it to some degree. In many cases, forgoing copyright can do real harm to the artists and companies who work very hard to entertain their fans. Instead of creating more barriers between international Kpop fans and the content they seek, those who create fantaken content should begin a meaningful dialogue in the community so that the real concern (“Let’s teach Kpop fans how to copyright their original work online” or “How do we get as much content as we can to as many people as we can when there are language, copyright, and media outlet barriers?” or “How can Kpop fans who create original content or augment other copyrighted content work within copyright law to expand distribution of Kpop content to an international audience?”) can be dealt with in a welcoming and solution-oriented, not punitive manner.
What kind of impact do you think the Korean Data Blackout had on bringing awareness to the concerns surrounding fantaken content? What concerns do you have, if any, about the proliferation of questionable Kpop content online? Leave your comments below.
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