Copyright infringement and remedies

Infringing acts

What constitutes copyright infringement?

Reproduction, performance, screen presentation, public transmission, recitation, exhibition, distribution, rental, translation or adaptation without the copyright owner’s approval constitutes copyright infringement.

Vicarious and contributory liability

Does secondary liability exist for indirect copyright infringement? What actions incur such liability?

While the Copyright Act itself does not expressly provide for an indirect infringement theory for copyright, the case law has recognised such a concept which carries both civil and criminal liability in certain circumstances. As to what constitutes indirect infringement, the Korean Supreme Court has held that the crime of aiding and abetting copyright infringement includes any direct and indirect acts of facilitating or accommodating illegal reproduction activities, and indirect infringement does not require actual or specific knowledge as to the timing, location or identity of the infringer.

Available remedies

What remedies are available against a copyright infringer?

The available remedies include: injunction, compensation for damages, measures for the restoration of honour and reputation (such as a public apology), and disgorgement of unjust enrichment.

Limitation period

Is there a time limit for seeking remedies?

Yes. Compensation for damages must be claimed within the earlier of 10 years from when the infringement took place, or three years from when the copyright owner became aware of the damage caused by the infringement and the identity of the infringer.

Monetary damages

Are monetary damages available for copyright infringement?


Attorneys’ fees and costs

Can attorneys’ fees and costs be claimed in an action for copyright infringement?

Yes. Attorney’s fees and costs may be claimed within certain limits set by the court.

Criminal enforcement

Are there criminal copyright provisions? What are they?

Yes. An infringer of another’s economic rights or other proprietary rights by means of reproduction, performance, public transmission, exhibition, distribution, rental, or production of derivative works can be subject to imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of not more than 50 million won, or both.

A person who defames the author or performer by infringing on the moral rights can be punished by imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of not exceeding 30 million won, or both.

In addition, the act of illegal reproduction of database, filing for false registration, failure to indicate the source of authorship is each criminally actionable.

Online infringement

Are there any specific liabilities, remedies or defences for online copyright infringement?

Yes. A person who infringes on the business interests of a content creator and a person who, without the authorisation, provides, imports, manufactures, transfers, leases, forwards or exhibits for transfer or lease technologies, services, devices or main parts thereof with the main purpose of neutralising the technological protection measures is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years or by a fine of not exceeding 20 million won.

Prevention measures

How may copyright infringement be prevented?

Monitoring of newly released works can be an effective way to avoid infringement. Prior to using a copyrighted work, the user must ascertain all rights holders of the work. For example, a musical work involves various rights holders, including the composer, lyricist, performers and record labels. In the case of musical works, copyright administration is usually entrusted with the collecting societies making the clearance of the copyright easy.

Copyright notice can also deter infringement. Although a copyright notice is not required for the work to be protected for copyright, indicating the notice can discourage unlawful use of the work by reminding the user of the need to seek permission before using the work. Copyright registration, while not required for copyright protection, is required in order to claim statutory damages in copyright infringement action and the registration also serves as constructive notice to the public.