Publication Details

This book chapter was originally published as Lee, K-S, The electronic fabric of resistance : a constructive network of online users and activists challenging a rigid copyright regime, in Kidd, D, Rodriguez, C and Stein, L (ed) Making our media : global initiatives toward a democratic public sphere, (Volume 2, National and Global Movements for Democratic Communication), Cresskill, NJ, Hampton Press, 2009, 189-206. Original publisher information available here


The study examines the autonomous activities of South Korea’s Internet users to counter the new intellectual property (IP) regime, specifically, how Internet users and civil rights groups joined together early in 2005 to construct a widespread network of resistance against the 2004 Copyright Act, and how the two camps interacted with each other. During the first quarter of 2005, Internet users’ counter-activities to the copyright law were spontaneous and voluntarily interconnected to each other without any help from the civil rights movement. The users’ activities sprang spontaneously from anger that the government’s IP regime would deprive them of their rights of cultural expression, which had previously been little regulated. Later, the widespread resistance of Internet users against the government’s policies was transformed into a united front with civil rights groups against the IP regime. Moreover, the users’ actions provided the momentum to hammer out an alternative license model, which civil rights groups designed for the purpose of softening the rigid copyright system. The present study investigates the context and the chronology of events and issues in late 2004 and especially early 2005 that led to the rise of e-resistance or digital activism in South Korea. To add depth to this examination, the author also refers to in-depth interviews of opinion leaders in civil rights groups who were deeply involved in organizing the resistance of Internet users. To investigate Internet users’ activities targeted at a specific socio-cultural agenda both online and offline, the proposed study will adopt Hardt and Negri’s concept of the “multitude” — a new social class that attempts to mobilize a network with its neighbors in order to obtain a set of resources with which to build a political project by itself. This concept of multitude was originally used to describe a unified power of many voices resisting global capitalism, but the present study applies the concept to the many and varied citizen stakeholders who resisted the current trajectory of the Korean IP regime. The present study stresses importance of looking at how different citizens, whether individual Internet users, online activists groups, or offline civil rights groups, worked together to articulate an alternative vision of copyright. The Korean experience of e-activism to the IP regime suggests that there is a limited value to simply sharing copyrighted intellectual works among users; what is really needed is to explore means to legitimate a model of sharing creative works that is more open, more liberating, and more conducive to democracy and a free culture. The solidarity of Internet users and online activist groups in organizing both online and offline protests and in developing an alternative licensing model offers an example of how to resist and rebuild copyright policies tailored exclusively to the economic demands of the global market.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Hampton Press