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People Power: Finnish Parliament to Vote on Crowdsourced Copyright Bill

Posted by: , 18:36 AEST, Thu July 25, 2013

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The citizens of Finland help to write new "fairer" copyright laws, a change from the lobbyist driven process
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Image/Photo Credit: Mr. T in DC @ Flickr, CC

A set of new copyright laws written and voted on by more than 1,100 people, and supported by more than 50,000 Finns is heading to the Finnish parliament.

The new laws, dubbed the Common Sense in Copyright Act, aims to make copyright law fairer in the Scandinavian country.

Finland's current copyright laws, toughened in 2006, have become infamous around the world. The most notable scandal involved a 9 year-old's home being searched by police and a Winnie the Pooh laptop being seized, all due to the download of a single music album. The strong police action is the result of the 2006 law which makes downloading pirated content a felony.

Joonas Pekkanen, who chairs for the grassroots political campaign group Open Ministry, says the current laws are too harsh for the nature of the crime. "Currently it [piracy downloads] carries the same penalties in the penal code as severe crimes on health and public safety, such as involuntary manslaughter or violent rioting," said Pekkanen.

And the Common Sense in Copyright Act aims to change the status quo, by making downloading no more serious than petty theft.

The draft legislation also proposes changes to remove classrooms from being classified as public spaces, thus allowing the free use of copyright materials for the purpose of teaching.

Under Finland's citizen's initiative program, proposed legislation can be heard in parliament if it gains 50,000 backers; which the Common Sense in Copyright Act now has. The country's National Census Bureau will now verify the total number of backers that are also registered voters, and if this hurdle is passed, the bill will be voted on in early 2014.

Pekkanen says this people powered process reverses the previous trend of pro-copyright lobbyists helping to write the country's copyright laws.

"Members of Parliament are quite open about the fact, that Copyright Laws are handed down to them from the international lobbyists. If we do not push back, they will keep on rubber-stamping harsh legislation and infringing on consumer rights," Pekkanen told Torrentfreak.


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