For Pyongyang, Global Digital Revolution for Foreign Eyes Only: You Tube Bans North Korean Video for Stealing Copyrighted U.S. Video Game Soundtrack: Pyongyang Dips its Toes Awkwardly Into the Global Information Age by Sending Propaganda Out and Forbidding Information In.
YouTube has removed another North Korean government video from the state run Uriminzokkiri You Tube site for copyright infringement, according to the excellent North Korean Tech website run by Martyn Williams. This propaganda video used the soundtrack from the video game “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” after a copyright complaint from ZeniMax Media, a Maryland-based computer game publisher.
North Korea, which maintains a remarkably large international patenting program having registered worldwide claims to tens of thousands of alleged inventions from machine tools to science research, regularly rips off music, movie clips, foreign news footage, cartoon characters, and protected technology from Androids to counterfeit brand name cigarettes.
The You Tube removal of the video game soundtrack comes on the heels earlier this month of another You Tube removal of another North Korean propaganda video using a computer-generated animation clip from Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” following a complaint by Activision. North Korea released that video also on its official YouTube page showing New York being destroyed by a military attack after a cartoon space ship circles earth and zooms in on New York City being attacked. The caption in Korean read: “Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing. It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze.”
The Uriminzokkiri social media site is based in China and designed for foreign consumption, and no North Koreans are allowed possession of technology to access even its governments own social media propaganda under penalty of being sent to harsh prison camps.
Increased publicity about Pyongyang’s increasing use of social media, including Twitter, Face Book, and You Tube has brought greater scrutiny and an increase of complaints of unauthorized use of copyrighted material could result in YouTube cancelling Pyongyang’s Uriminzokkiri account for repeatedly violating You Tube’s copyright policy agreement which all subscribers must agree to adhere to when opening an account.
North Korea announced they had opened a Gmail account last month on the eve of the visit of Google chairman Eric Schmidt, but the account was never activated as the [email protected] name failed to meet Google’s requirement of a 7 character minimum for email addresses. As no North Korean’s are allowed access to email it is unlikely that Pyongyang seriously considered the aborted venture into the digital age a major setback.
In December, 2012, the same week Google Chairman Eric Schmidt announces he would visit North Korea is the state news agency KCNA revamped its website to include greater use of video, and photographs and a flashier less utilitarian style, but the update remains far from cutting edge.
kcna.kp was created in October 2010 as Pyongyang first dipped its toes in the waters of the digital age and updated in April 2011. Before that, the official North Korean government website was registered in an obscure one room apartment in a building in Tokyo, the daily news made available days later arriving clumsily by obscured delivery to a website hosted by sympathetic ethnic Koreans in Japan who followed strict instructions from Pyongyang. That website, kcna.co.jp, still delivers Pyongyang produced propaganda in a carefully edited, less comprehensive version of the .kp domain, according to the excellent website NK News operated by European Korea watchers.
The newly revamped KCNA website focuses on the big stories according to the worldview of Pyongyang, and is broken down into categories which include world news, mostly dedicated to obscure people, publications, and rarely heard of organizations paying homage to the Kim family, studying Juche ideology, detailing the activities breathlessly of the current Kim, or republishing the works of the Kim Grandfather, son, and current leader, his grandson. A prominent feature id dedicated to the indefatigable, brilliant, and universally revered Kim Jong-un, which replaced a similar category that highlighted his father until his death in December 2011.
Stories from African, South American, South Asian, Russian and Chinese alleged Juche devotees are ubiquitous, leaving a reader with the impression that there is a mass global following that views the Kim dynasty as the most advanced nation on earth. The most common theme is worldwide praises and gifts sent to Pyongyang supporting missile and nuclear advances.
A new section visitors to the revamped KCNA website encounter encourages user registration, asking for those who visit the site to give their name, birthday, sex, telephone, email, address, and nationality as requirements of registration process, but registering offers no additional to other content of the website, but would allow Pyongyang to determine the IP address of visitors.
Prior to 2010, the KCNA Japan based site was purely text, as it remains today, but the addition of the KCNA.kp domain included pictures and video for the first time, but is carefully created to prohibit linking to news articles, photos or videos on the site, as remains true with the newly unveiled revamping in December 2012, making it impossible for readers to share articles.
Prior to 2010, Pyongyang had virtually no online footprint. Indeed, even cell phones were banned until 2008 in the country after a brief nascent program that peaked at about 20,000 mobile phones was abruptly extinguished in May 2004 after an explosion on a train was determined to have been triggered by a cell phone used as a detonator by still unidentified perpetrators hours after then leader Kim Jong Il passed through the area on his return from China in his private train.
Despite North Korea’s increased web presence, there remains virtually no access to North Koreans themselves, the target audience being foreigners who are deemed useful for state propaganda.