Finnish crowdsourcing initiative could lead to copyright changes


Finnish citizens have been signing a petition proposing a parliament vote which could relax current copyright laws.

The petition is hosted by Open Ministry, a non-profit organisation founded in Helsinki in March 2012 that allows Finnish citizens to propose legislation for the parliament to vote on. Any legislation that receives 50,000 signatures (or about 1 percent of the Finnish population) in a six-month period will go to a vote.

Street artist Sampsa proposed the bill, called ‘To make sense of the Copyright Act’, last November.

The petition calls for changes to the 2005 ‘Lex Karpela’ update to Finnish copyright law.

Copyright has been a hot topic in Finland for the last 12 months. In one particularly controversial case, a 9-year-old girl’s Winnie the Pooh laptop was seized and her father fined €600 after she downloaded one song using a peer-to-peer network.

The group Common Sense in Copyright, which is linked to Sampsa, organised the bill’s online campaign. It says in a statement on its website: “There is widespread agreement that the Finnish copyright law is too strict and allows for excessive infringements of privacy and penalties.”

‘To make sense of the Copyright Act’ proposes several changes to the current copyright law, including implementing the fair use doctrine and allowing the possibility for artists to challenge the actions of organisations acting on their behalf.

The bill also suggests that individual downloading of copyright-protected material should be a misdemeanour and not a crime.

At the time of writing, five days after the petition opened, 23 percent of the required 50,000 signatures have been collected.

Of all the proposed bills on the Open Ministry site, which includes prohibiting sales of energy drinks to under-16s and stopping the farming of animals for their furs, the copyright law change has the most support, and is one of the most discussed.

Jan Lindberg, partner at Magnusson in Helsinki, said: “The proposal is rather understandable and of course we need to evaluate … the remedies proportioned to the actual infringing acts.

“Copyright collecting societies are targeting individual citizens nowadays much more than in the past - partly perhaps due to the fact that it is difficult … to catch parties involved in organized crime and piracy.”

He said that the Open Ministry campaign raises public awareness of the issue, though adds that there have been similar attempts to change Finnish copyright law in the recent past - for example 2009’s proposal by minister Stefan Wallin - which have not resulted in any amendments.

Lindberg continued:  “In my view this is to a large extent due to the fact that the interest groups share somewhat different interests (eg corporations like Nokia as opposed to a single artist), and therefore also different views as to how the copyright act should be modified.

“Therefore, I highly doubt that the proposal will reach its aims while stating at the same time that we warmly welcome discussion on these topics and we agree that in many cases there is room for improvement and even a need to consider overall reform of the system.”

This article was first published on 28 January 2013 in World IP Review

crowdsourcing, Open Ministry, Finnish Copyright Act, Lex Karpela, petition, Sampsa, Common Sense in Copyright

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