Let’s work together to make the Internet a platform for freedom, openness, and sharing!

The Internet has already become an important part of our life. For many of us, however, the Internet still has many unfamiliar aspects, and few people have the full understanding of the technical complexity underlying the Internet. Nevertheless, the Internet must be a platform where important and long-venerated values of the offline world, such as freedom, equality, justice, honesty, fair competition, and innovation and creation, must continue to be upheld and promoted.

Background: Korea and the Internet’s Love-Hate Relationship

Korea, with the highest broadband penetration rate in the world, has always threatened to regulate the Internet in the most comprehensive manner as well:

  • Even after the internet “real name” requirement was struck down by the Constitutional Court in August 2012, the portals and websites are still forced to conduct identity verification on users because of a mirroring provision in the country’s election law that allows election-related postings only on the condition of verifying the posters’ identity in advance with those sites.
  • The Korea Communication Standards Commission, a government body that takes down internet content, vanquishes website user accounts, and filters overseas-based internet contents including tweets and Facebook postings, with no relation to crimes, without any judicial intervention whatsoever, continues to do so without ever notifying the users.
  • More than 0.5 million internet posters/users’ and 5 million mobile users’ identity information are being handed over to the authorities for criminal investigations in the country of about 50 million people, without notification to the users and without any judicial intervention. More than 30 million communication transaction data requests were approved by the courts in 2011 alone, which include even cell site tracking data and internet connection log files, again in the country of 50 million people.
  • Internet banking on Korea-based websites still requires public-key infrastructure “certified” by the Korean government which has failed to meet the global standard, thereby leaving many users resisting the unnecessary plug-ins required by the Korean PKI without any recourse to financial transactions on those sites.
  • All “games” published in Korea are subject to a pre-publication age rating that, with its heavy administrative and financial burdens, has stamped out independent development and innovation in the industry and prevented in-country access to Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, which The Games Rating Agency’s decisions are not subject to immediate judicial review.
  • All games run on “the information and communications” network are shut down exactly at midnight unless the gamers instantly demonstrate their adult identities.
  • All contents on the Internet and all media, originating from anywhere in the world, are subject to age-filtering obligations from time to time imposed by the Youth Protection Commission, another extra-judicial body. Of course, cinema, video, and music are all subject to respective pre-publication extra-judicial rating while internet contents, together with books, broadcasting, and live performances are subject to the post-publication rating on the top of the filtering/takedown of KCSC.
  • Under the country’s Copyright Three Strikes Out Law, more than 30 users’ accounts have been erased for copyright violations in 2011 by the relevant the Copyright Commission, which probably now remains the only extrajudicial agency of that kind after the French Constitutional Council forced HADOPI to obtain court approval before acting.

“A Think Tank That Acts”; “Advocacy that Thinks”

Against this overwhelming background, Open Net Korea is aspiring to become not only a legal and legislative advocacy organization that fights the regulations but also a think tank that inquires into the reasons for these regulations and “thinks aloud” with the Korean public and the world on what has caused and what will prevent the Internet from becoming a “closed” circuit for some group of people, instead of “open network”. Open Net Korea aims to provide a forum for discussion and collaboration to explore effective policies and solutions in the following areas:

Freedom of Expression

The Internet facilitates free expression more than any other means of communication. Uninhibited and robust criticism and public discussion which can take place on the Internet contributes to deliberative democracy in a more concrete manner. Such activities are crucial to promote community values. At the same time, no one wishes to see the Internet to be abused as a means of malicious attacks or an instrument of illegal behavior. Open Net Korea shall endeavor to ensure that users and policymakers have an accurate understanding of the full potentials of the Internet. We wish to contribute to the community’s efforts to find reasonable and pertinent remedies for wrongful infringements upon individuals and the principle of the freedom of expression.

Freedom from Surveillance

Each and every move of a user leaves technical traces on the Internet. The government and the industry may have the desire to collect, aggregate, process and analyze these data. It is tempting for the government to have more information on individuals. Enterprises have no less incentive to have access to such information. Open Net Korea shall stand firmly in support of individual’s privacy, without falling prey to exaggerated paranoia which may suppress even the legitimate business models on the Internet, which will greatly enhance our quality of life.

Reforming Innovation-blocking Regulations

The Korean Internet, the users as well as the business are suffering from numerous and over-zealous regulations. For instance, the long-standing regulation which requires that all e-commerce transactions between ‘private’ parties must be authenticated with a digital certificate issued by government-controlled CAs, have made the Korean Internet isolated from the rest of the world. Such regulation is not only against the OECD Guidelines for Cryptography Policy but plainly hurting the development of new and more advanced security technologies in Korea. Open Net Korea shall strenuously campaign for reforming and removing innovation-blocking, short-sighted and trade-restrictive regulations which are the sources of so much grievance from users and business entities.

Net Governance and Neutrality

The Internet is for everyone. No single entity should be allowed to claim exclusive control over the access to the Internet. Network operators seem to think that merely because they own the physical infrastructure, they should be able to decide who can do what on their network. This is plainly wrong. If no user contributes, no service provider contributes, who would use such an empty, pristine network? Users and service providers should have just as much say as the network service providers in this matter. The market situation, of course, must be taken into account. In Korea, the mobile network is under an oligarchic control of 3 major operators. The need for a sensible policy to coordinate the competing and sometimes conflicting interests of all stakeholders is all the acuter in such a market. Open Net Korea shall endeavour to contribute to the shaping of sound policies regarding net governance and neutrality.

Open Data Policy

Public bodies must realize that the databases they have accumulated are made with taxpayers’ money. Except for the portion which the relevant public body can show that there are legitimate reasons to keep that portion confidential, the databases must be made publicly available in a machine-readable format, without any burdensome charge or application procedure. Developers, not only in Korea but all over the world, should have easy access to publicly accumulated databases. This is a most effective and efficient way to improve the quality of life in a modern world.

Reforming the Intellectual Property Regime

The advent of digital era fundamentally changed the way works are distributed, consumed, redistributed and eventually paid for along the way. Numerous possibilities for innovative fee collection and compensation models are made possible because of the Internet. The traditional copyright regime is perceived to be increasingly inadequate to cope with the mounting issues posed by works in digital format. A similar problem is surfacing in the area of software patents. Open Net Korea does not argue that creators should not be compensated. We argue that there are new possibilities for better compensation for the creators. The existing intellectual property law regime merely prevents these newer models for better compensation for the creators. Open Net Korea shall strive to contribute to the world-wide effort to explore a way forward in the area of intellectual property regime. A legal regime which purports to condemn the predominant majority of the current users of the Internet as ‘criminals’ cannot survive long. The regime itself will soon be condemned unless it reforms itself.

Open Net Korea proposes to do the following:

1. Offer accurate and timely analyses of pending policy issues affecting the Internet and IT

We operate a team blog where policy makers, news reporters, and the general public can find useful analyses of pending policy issues affecting the Internet and IT. We offer video log and plan to start podcast as well.

2. Campaigning for law reform

We shall launch law reform campaigns to change outdated, oppressive and unreasonable regulatory burdens. We work in close cooperation, whenever it is possible, with lawmakers and the Executive branch.

3. Public interest litigation

Sometimes, the problem can only be solved through a judicial means. Open Net Korea shall launch lawsuits to remove unconstitutional or unlawful regulations oppressing the freedom of individuals and the business entities.

4. Scholarships and Research Grants

Open Net Korea offers research grants and scholarships so that we can have a richer pool of knowledgeable people who can work in various sectors (both in the government and in the industry). Open Net Korea also organizes seminars and public lectures. Sound policies can only come from a sound mind.