Movie ‘Crossing’ and copyright dispute

I haven’t seen this movie ‘Crossing’ though. I could guess that this movie is about South-North Korea. The poster speaks of itself, doesn’t it?

News about the (looming) copyright dispute between a movie director Lee Gwang Hoon (이광훈) and Camp B, producer of this movie says Lee Gwang Hoon arguably wrote a scenario about similar story before Camp B. Camp B (naturally) argues the story is not based on a specific personal experience of one Mr. Yoo (who provided the story for Lee Gwang Hoon), instead they created ‘Crossing’ out of many similar stories.

One of the arguments by Camp B that might be intriguing is that Lee Gwang Hoon does not have any copyrightable subject matter because Lee Gwang Hoon has not published his scenario.

It is natural and obvious that Lee Gwang Hoon published his story in some way. He heard Mr. Yoo’s story and wrote a scenario. Mr. Yoo published his story when he told Lee Gwang Hoon his story. Lee Gwang Hoon must have shown his scenario to someone, which is easily provable.

Lawyers who don’t know the difference between the US Copyright law and Korean Copyright law in terms of publication might think my statement mis-stated. No, it is not.

In Korea, publication for the purpose of copyright protection does not require fixation. You speak, you have copyrightable subject matter.

In the U.S., you have to have a fixated material in order to have copyright protection. This fixation requirement led to a long strain of cases questioning and answering whether RAM copy is fixation, whether signal transmission through an electric wire is fixation, etc.

All these important and intriguing questions in the U.S. copyright jurisdiction is moot in Korea.

One commentator, whose name I can’t remember, noted that the difference in the fixation requirement is not crucial in terms of the overall copyright law structure. Instead, he furthered, the difference is meaningful in how the two jurisdictions differ in proving copyrightable subject matter.

The U.S. copyright law requires fixated material. The copyright owner has to have some kind of tangible evidence on his part first. A statement (testimony) that one wrote a scenario doesn’t do any good. So, authors have this laymen’s know-how to protect copyright – send a copy to yourself.

In Korea, it is totally possible that one simply argues that he told a story and his owns copyright over the story. How is he going to prove it? Go to court and argue.


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