Commons:Copyright rules by territory/South Korea

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This page provides an overview of copyright rules of South Korea relevant to uploading works into Wikimedia Commons. Note that any work originating in South Korea must be in the public domain, or available under a free license, in both South Korea and the United States before it can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. If there is any doubt about the copyright status of a work from South Korea, refer to the relevant laws for clarification.


Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910. After World War II ended in 1945, Korea was divided into two zones, with the north occupied by the Soviet Union and the south occupied by the United States. In 1948, separate governments were formed in North Korea and South Korea.

South Korea has been a member of the Universal Copyright Convention since 1 October 1987, the World Trade Organization since 1 January 1995, the Berne Convention since 21 August 1996 and the WIPO Copyright Treaty since 24 June 2004.[1]

As of 2021 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations, listed the Copyright Act (Act No. 432 of January 28, 1957, as amended up to Act No. 17588 of December 8, 2020) as the main copyright law enacted by the legislature of South Korea.[1] WIPO holds the text of this law in their WIPO Lex database.[2]

Types of protected work

Examples of protected works include:[3916/1987–2020 Article 4]

  • Fiction, poetry, articles, lectures, speeches and other literary works
  • Musical works
  • Pantomime, theater, dance and other theatrical works
  • Calligraphy, painting, sculpture, prints, crafts, applied arts and other art works
  • Models, design plans and other works used for building and construction
  • Photographs
  • Cinematographic works
  • Maps, charts, plans, directions, models and other forms of work
  • Computer programs

Not protected


See also: Commons:Unprotected works

Under the Copyright Act (Act No. 432 of January 28, 1957, as amended up to Act No. 17588 of December 8, 2020), works that fall under any of the following are not protected by copyright.[3916/1987–2020 Article 7]

  • Constitution, laws, treaties, orders, ordinances and rules
  • Public notices, announcements, orders, and other similar matters by the State or local governments
  • Judgment, decision, order and trial or administrative trial procedure of the court, other resolutions, decisions, etc. through similar procedures
  • Compilation or translation of those stipulated in subparagraphs 1 through 3, prepared by the State or local government
  • News reports that only convey facts

General rules

Under the Copyright Act (Act No. 432 of January 28, 1957, as amended up to Act No. 14634 of March 21, 2017),

  • An author's property rights survive 70 years after the author has died, except where otherwise specified.[432/1957–2017 Article 39]
  • Property rights in a joint work survive 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.[432/1957–2017 Article 39]
  • An anonymous or pseudonymous work is protected 70 years from publication unless the author becomes know during this period, in which case protection lasts as in Article 39.[432/1957–2017 Article 40]
  • A work created during employment is protected for 70 years from the time of publication. However, if it is not published within 50 years from creation it is protected for 70 years from creation.[432/1957–2017 Article 41]
  • An audiovisual work is protected for 70 years from publication. However, if it is not published within 50 years from creation it is protected for 70 years from creation.[432/1957–2017 Article 42]
  • The term of protection lasts until end of the year of the author's death, or year of creation or publication as applicable.[432/1957–2017 Article 44]
  • Neighboring rights are protected for 70 years from performance, recording or broadcast, as applicable.[432/1957–2017 Article 86] Note that, for musical recordings, the underlying musical work will also need to be out of copyright.

Pre-1963 deaths, organization works

Copyright protection durations were 30 years before 1957 and 50 years before July 2013. This applies to copyrighted works of which authors died before 1 January 1963, or which were made public in the name of an organization before 1 January 1963.

Furthermore, with the exceptions of photographs reproducing otherwise copyrighted works of art, and photographs inserted into a work of study or art and produced only for the purpose of inclusion within said work, photographs or other works of a similar form to photography either published or produced in negative on or before 31 December 1976 are now in the public domain in the Republic of Korea as their term of copyright has expired there.

There are exceptional cases. Property rights are to belong to the state according to provisions of the Civil Law and other laws upon the death of a copyright owner without heir or, in the case of a legal person or organization, upon its dissolution. The product must also be in the public domain in the United States.

Status in the United States

For deciding if the work is out of copyright in the U.S., it's necessary to figure out whether the work was in copyright in 1996. If a work went out of copyright before the 1986 act extended copyright terms from 30 years to 50 years, it does not regain copyright. The act came into force in 1987, hence, works where all authors died before 1957 are out of copyright in both South Korea and the U.S.[3]

Copyright tags

See also: Commons:Copyright tags


See also: Commons:Cheque

 Not OK. South Korean cheques are copyrighted by Korea Federation of Banks. Korea Federation of Banks doesn't provide terms of use.

See also: Commons:Village pump/Copyright/Archive/2021/04#Is it OK to upload South Korean cheques?


See also: Commons:Currency

OK. The Bank of Korea owns copyright on all currency issued in South Korea since its establishment in 1950. The Bank of Korea allows anyone to reproduce and use the reproduction of its currency without requiring a permission but under certain restrictions, as explained in the Guidelines for the Reproduction of Bank of Korea Notes and Coins.[4]

For electronic reproductions the resolution of the image in its original size must not exceed 72dpi, and the word "SPECIMEN" or "보기" must be marked on either the obverse or the reverse of any part, excluding the portrait, of the reproduction and must be plainly distinguishable but inseparable from the reproduction. The size of the word "SPECIMEN" or "보기" must larger than the word "Bank of Korea" on the top center of the front side of the banknote, and must be in a non-transparent color that is clearly contrasted with the main color of the respective banknote. This also applies to partial reproductions.[4]

Please use {{South Korean currency}} for South Korean currency images that meet the requirement of Section 3.C (Intangible reproductions) of the currency reproduction guidelines.

De minimis

See also: Commons:De minimis

This photo is not copyright infringement because Lotte World Tower is not main object in this image, it's incidentally included.

Under the Copyright Act (as amended up to Act No. 16600 of November 26, 2019),

Article 35-3 (Incidental Inclusion, etc.),
A work seen or heard in the courses of photographing, voice recording, or video recording (hereinafter referred to as "shooting, etc." in this Article), where it is incidentally included in the main object of shooting, etc., may be reproduced, distributed, performed in public, displayed, or publicly transmited. That where it unreasonably prejudices the interest of the holder of author's economic right in light of the type and nature of the used work, the purpose and character of use, etc, the same shall not apply.

Freedom of panorama

See also: Commons:Freedom of panorama

 Not OK, non-commercial only for artistic works, buildings, and photographs. {{NoFoP-South Korea}}

Note: Please tag South Korean no-FoP deletion requests: <noinclude>[[Category:South Korean FOP cases/pending]]</noinclude>
Under the Copyright Act (as amended up to Act No. 8101 of June 29, 2007),

Article 35 (Exhibition or Reproduction of Works of Art, etc.),
(1) The holder of the original of a work of art, architectural work or photographic work (hereinafter referred to as “work of art, etc.”), or a person who has obtained the holder’s consent, may exhibit the work in its original form: Provided, That where the work of art is to be permanently exhibited on the street, in the park, on the exterior of a building, or other places open to the public, the same shall not apply.
(2) Works of art, etc. exhibited at all times at an open place as referred to in the proviso to paragraph (1) may be reproduced and used by any means: Provided, That in any of the following cases, the same shall not apply:
  1. Where a building is reproduced into another building;
  2. Where a sculpture or painting is reproduced into another sculpture or painting;
  3. Where the reproduction is made in order to exhibit permanently at an open place under the proviso to paragraph (1);
  4. Where the reproduction is made for the purpose of selling its copies.
(3) A person who exhibits works of art, etc. pursuant to paragraph (1), or who intends to sell originals of works of art, etc., may reproduce and distribute them in a pamphlet for the purpose of explaining or introducing them.
(4) No portrait nor a similar photographic work produced by commission shall be used without the consent of the commissioner.

This permits any reproduction of works permanently installed in "open places", 35.(2).4 specifically states that the rule does not apply "where reproduction is made for the purpose of selling its copies." Reproduction is defined in Section 2.(22) as "...the fixation or the reproduction in a tangible medium by means of printing, photographing, copying, sound or visual recording, or other means." Selling reproduction of artistic works in public place is not allowed, for examples, selling postcard, calendar, collection of photos in which the artistic works have major part is not allowed.[5]


OK for non-building structures (such as bridges, dams, tunnels, etc.)

Non-building structures are not mentioned in Copyright Act Article 4, so they do not have a copyright in South Korea. Please use {{PD-structure|KOR}} or {{PD-SK-nonbuilding-structure}} for photos of South Korean non-building structures.

See also: Commons:Deletion requests/Files in Category:Yi Sun-sin Bridge


See also: Commons:Stamps

Copyrighted According to Articles 39 to 44 of the Copyright Act of the Republic of Korea, copyrighted works enter the public domain 70 years after publication when made public in the name of an organization. Use {{PD-South Korea}} if published before 1 January 1963.

Threshold of originality

See also: Commons:Threshold of originality

According to a machine translation of the Copyright Act as amended up to Act No. 14634 of March 21, 2017,

  • "Work" refers to a creation that expresses human thoughts or feelings.[432/1957–2017 Article 2.2]

The Supreme Court of South Korea declared that it is sufficient to be work if:[6]

  • it is not just an imitation,
  • it has own characteristics as a product of mental efforts, and
  • it can be distinguished from existing ones.

Seoul High Court judged the seagull pattern and the figure of Ebisu of EVISU Japan is not copyrighted because they cannot be recognized for originality.[7] Also, The Supreme Court of South Korea has ruled that typefaces are not copyrighted. (See also Commons:Copyright rules by territory/South Korea § Signatures)

However, the Supreme Court of South Korea judged the logo of Fox Racing is copyrighted.[8]


See also: Commons:When to use the PD-signature tag

OK for a typical signature: The Supreme Court of South Korea has ruled that typefaces are not protected by copyright.[9]

 Not OK for calligraphic signatures: According to Copyright Act Article 4, calligraphy is protected by copyright (See also Commons:Copyright rules by territory/South Korea § Types of protected work).

See also


  1. a b Republic of Korea Copyright and Related Rights (Neighboring Rights). WIPO: World Intellectual Property Organization (2018). Retrieved on 2018-11-08.
  2. Copyright Act (Act No. 432 of January 28, 1957, as amended up to Act No. 17588 of December 08, 2020). South Korea (2021). Retrieved on 2021-09-05.
  3. Yunjeong Choi (2003) Development of Copyright Protection in Korea: its History, Inherent Limits, and Suggested Solutions, Brook. J. Int'l L. 28, pp. 643−673
  4. a b Guidelines for the For Reproduction of Bank of Korea Notes and Coins. Retrieved on 2019-01-27.
  5. Jin-won Choe, The Right of Exhibition and the Freedom of Panorama
  6. The Supreme Court of South Korea 2012다28745
  7. Seoul High Court 2009나122304
  8. The Supreme Court of South Korea 2012다76829
  9. The Supreme Court of South Korea 94누5632
Caution: The above description may be inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date, so must be treated with caution. Before you upload a file to Wikimedia Commons you should ensure it may be used freely. See also: Commons:General disclaimer