Tuesday 23 April 2013

Finland blacks out for copyright reform

Ahhh, Finland, land of lakes, trees, and lovely people. And, you will remember from Iona’s blog, the place where a nine year-old girl had her home raided by the police and her Winnie the Pooh decorated laptop confiscated after attempting to illegally download Finnish pop star Chisu's latest album in November last year. Ho hum.

Well, today is “Finnish Black Out Day” – set up to mark the half-way point of the campaign by Avoin Ministeriö (Open Ministry) to reform Finnish copyright laws. To help gather enough signatures, numerous Finnish websites will be blacked out today, pointing visitors to sign the online petition in support of a “Common Sense in Copyright Law” proposal. Just over a year ago the Finnish parliament amended the national constitution so that any petition that reaches 50,000 signatures must be brought to the parliament for a vote. At the time of writing, the proposal had gathered 26,678 signatures.

The proposed reform centres on reducing the penalty for "small scale" piracy to a fine, rather than the current maximum of two years custody. In turn this would limit the powers available to the Finnish police to investigate infringement claims, including a restriction in their right to obtain private data online or confiscate property. The proposal also includes the right of "fair use" of copyrighted material for teaching and research, and adds a new category of fair use to cover parody and satire, which Arctic StartUp tells me are currently “unclear in the current legislation”.

There are some interesting twists in this proposed reform – and some I quite like: Recording artists' rights would be strengthened, allowing artists to license their works through open licenses.  But additionally, if a fan of an artist was being prosecuted in court for infringement, the artist would have the ability to require their representative organisation to stop any action which involved their content. Now that I do like! But I am not clear if an artist could overrule their record label who may well be the owner of the copyright - despite the fact that until recently labels had done little to enamour themselves to with either consumers or those seeking to promote new business models, with the Recording Industry Association of America coming in for some fairly fierce criticism after conducting a number of high profile (and lengthy) trials for infringement, most of which ended up as nothing short of PR disasters.

The proposal goes further,  and asks for reforms to the composition of Finland’s Copyright Council, which currently includes representatives from the “old” media industries, such as the TV and recording industries. The proposal would add internet operators, software, and gaming industries into that mix. What fun!

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