V Live, the largest archive of K-pop live streams, will soon be V Dead: what happens to all that culture?

When people speak of culture, and preserving it, they usually mean the works of recognised artistic giants like Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charlie Chaplin, and Miles Davis. They rarely mean things like live streams of Korean pop music, generally known as K-pop. And yet K-pop is undoubtedly an expression – some would say a particularly vibrant expression – of a characteristic modern culture. It is also subject to copyright, which brings with it problems, as this story on Mashable reveals:

On Monday, Oct. 31, South Korean live streaming app V Live notified users that it’d be shutting down on Dec. 31, 2022. The closure isn’t a surprise — in March, HYBE, owner of the competing app Weverse, announced it had acquired V Live and intended to close the app — but it is a bummer for artists and fans. V Live is the largest-ever archive of live-streamed K-pop content. Where will that content live on when the app goes dark?

Owned by Naver, V Live launched in 2015 as a tool for Korean artists to connect with fans. They did that primarily through live streams, which were then saved in the app as on-demand videos. As K-pop exploded in global popularity, V Live connected these entertainers with an international audience who watched them eat meals, celebrate birthdays, and produce music in real time.

V Live is therefore a great example of how artists can use the latest technology to forge closer relationships with their fans around the world – something that Walled Culture has been advocating as a key element of finding new ways to fund creativity.

According to the Mashable article, some of the recordings will be moved to Weverse’s own platform. Specifically, recordings of artists who join Weverse before V Live is shut down. Weverse has also said that artists can download their V Live archives in order to upload them elsewhere. That’s all well and good, but it still leaves many musicians facing the possibility of their streams disappearing forever, because they are unable to move them to new sites, for whatever reason.

One issue in this story is the concentration of power in this sector, a typical problem that bedevils most of the copyright world, as I discuss in Walled Culture, the book. The main problem, though, is copyright itself. In a sane world, relevant cultural organisations would be able to download all of the streams on the V Live site as a matter of routine in order to preserve them for posterity, as important cultural artefacts of the K-pop world. Copyright naturally forbids that, seeing preservation as infringement. As a result, K-pop culture is likely to lose some of its characteristic moments, for no good reason, and to no one’s benefit.

Featured image by iphonedirect.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, or Mastodon.