Friday 23 November 2012

Copyright enforcement gone mad: Winnie-the-Pooh laptop seized

© Airis Sophia
Having reported on the German authorities' take on a teenager's infringement of copyright last week, this blogger thought it appropriate to follow up with the Finnish police's actions further to attempted copyright infringement by a nine-year-old.

This is a strange story, which one assumes the Finnish authorities wish had never happened. A nine-year-old girl couldn't afford to buy the latest song from her favourite pop star, Chisu. Or, being nine years old, perhaps she didn't have a credit card with which to pay to download it? In any event, she looked Chisu up on Google, which lead her to The Pirate Bay website, where she attempted to download the song. The download failed and the next day the girl went with her father to buy the song.
However, the Finnish Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre or the Tekijänoikeuden tiedotus- ja valvontakeskus ry (the TTVK) had detected the attempted download and contacted the girl's father asking him to pay €600 and to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to avoid prosecution. He did not pay.

This week, at 8am in the morning, the police knocked at the family's door, with a search warrant, and proceeded to seize the girl's laptop from which the attempted download had been made. It is probably one of the first Winnie-the-Pooh laptops to be seized for attempted illegal activity.
The girls's father told TorrentFreak:

"We have not done anything wrong with my daughter. If adults do not always know how to use a computer and the web, how can you assume that children or the elderly - or a 9-year-old girl - knows what they are doing at any given time online?
This is the pinnacle of absurdity. I can see artists are in a position, but this requires education and information, not resource-consuming lawsuits."

Electronic Frontier Finland, an association founded to protect citizens' electronic rights, said:  
"It is not in anyone's interest that, in the name of the copyright, little girls are being harassed. This shows poor judgment, and consideration from TTVK and from the police".
This blogger tends to agree with the girl's father that "education and information" are likely to be more effective than brute force. There is no excuse for seizing a nine-year-old's laptop for one attempted illegal download. Surely the Finnish police must have more pressing matter to deal with?

That said, this story demonstrates the importance of placing adequate controls on family computers. Although the German Federal Court found last week that parents were not responsible for their childen's infringing acts, another court could find otherwise, and innocence is no defence to (actual) copyright infringement.


Francis Davey said...

I think you mean "ignorance is no defence". Innocence is the very definition of a defence.

One difficulty with copyright infringement is the difficult in knowing whether one is or is not infringing. In the UK there is no defence of "reasonable belief" or "due diligence" to civil claims for infringement - nor to some at least of the consequences that follow such as potential action under the DEA.

But in fact everyone infringes copyright all the time almost constantly. Reading a website with content which, however unwittingly, infringes copyright is itself an infringement. There are almost certainly very large amounts of that sort of material "out there" (eg cut/pastes of other people's blogs without permission, images used from sites without clearance and continual copying around). It is just impossible to know.

In more practical terms: everyone is aware (I think - at least everyone adult) that there are illegal download music sites out there and we are beginning to learn to recognise them. But try looking for e-books and you will find large numbers of sites pressing what I suspect are infringing copies on you. The trouble is, its almost impossible to tell.

I like to think of myself as something of a copyright expert but satisfying myself that e-book downloads from online repositories of "out of copyright" material is no easy task. It sometimes involves a close enquiry into the author's domicile. I doubt most people have the knowledge or the patience so to do.

That suggests to me that there's something wrong here.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the correction - I do indeed mean that ignorance is no defence! Although I do agree with you that it can sometimes be hard to tell where that line is.