Based on the principle of copyrights, the compensation fee regulation which was first announced in April 2011 requires universities to compensate the copyright owners for their materials by forwarding their payments to the Korea Reprographic and Transmission Rights Association (KRTRA), a system which had not been inacted previously. The class materials in question refer to any references besides textbooks that professors provide during class to supplement their lectures.
“Universities may choose one of the two methods of payment: either calculate how much copyrighted material each student has used and pay the total amount at the end of each school year, or pay a fixed fee of 4,190 won per student to eliminate complicated calculations,” said Kim Kyoung-young, an official of the MSCT. “In essence, we are limiting the rights of copyright owners in favor of education by allowing the usage of others’ materials without seeking approval beforehand.”
If universities decide to follow the latter method, they will have to owe approximately 16 billion won per year to the KRTRA.
Contrary to the MSCT’s stance, the KCUE insists that professors be entitled to provide materials in class at no cost due to the publicness of university education.
“In most cases, the materials besides the textbooks professors use are individual sheets of paper, and we believe universities can afford to provide those for free for the sake of education,” said Kim Soo-kyung, the director in charge of the higher education at the KCUE.
“In addition, 56,668 professors from universities in Korea have allowed their works to be used free of charge during class as of March 2, which further eliminates the need to set such a standard.”
According to the KCUE, the subjects to the regulation are limited to instances of copying and distributing copyrighted materials within the textbook used in class, and the actual compensation fee results to only about 800 won per student when these measures are taken into account.
“The KCUE definitely agrees that copyright owners’ rights should be protected, but we oppose the standard presented by the MSCT because of its numerous loopholes and flaws,” Kim Soo-kyung said. “For example, the standard does not clarify whether how foreign copyright owners will be compensated through this criterion. We also expect the fees to be paid through students’ tuition, which we consider a waste on such a criterion that lacks a strong base.”
University students’ reactions to the copyright regulation vary on different grounds. Some students stood on the KCUE’s side, hinting that the regulation seemed like another scam to collect more money from students.
“Although I understand that illegal copying and distribution of textbooks are a problem that needs to be solved, I do not think that the MSCT’s regulation is a legitimate solution to this problem,” Han Kyu-hun (Korea University, 2) said. “Besides, I do not think it is the MSCT’s right to decide on the compensation fee for materials it does not even own.”
However, others acceded to the regulation, seeing it as a sign of respect to the copyright owners.
“Paying 4,190 won to gain access to any material seems like a fair deal since it also protects others’ copyrights,” Yun Ji-hoon (Sogang University, 3) said.
Another student from Seoul National University who wished to remain anonymous, said that although 4,190 won seemed like a low price to have any real effect, he hoped the school would not go out of its way to protect copyrights by raising the tuition fee.
As for Ewha, there is no set path as to its next course of action, but it is likely that it will move along with the national university body to the decisions made by the KCUE and other faculty councils.
“The banner announcing the compensation fee is on the school’s homepage because the KCUE had told all the universities to inform their students of the fee,” said Han Mee-ra, an official from the Office of Faculty and Academic Affairs. “The regulation is currently under inspection and debate in the KCUE and faculty councils, but once the standard is fixed, Ewha will respond in the same way as all the other universities.”