By Heini Järvinen

An update to the copyright law is being prepared in the Copyright Commission of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland. To affect the outcome of the preparations, and help correcting excessive interpretations of the current copyright laws, a citizens’ initiative “Common Sense For Copyright” was launched by the Open Ministry, a non-profit organisation mobilising citizens initiatives. The initiative gathered the support of over 50 000 citizens, and was submitted to the Parliament in November 2013.

On 1 October 2014, EDRi-member Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi), the Finnish Pirate Party and the Open Ministry submitted complaints to the Chancellor of Justice regarding the manner in which the Copyright Commission has proceeded with the process of preparing the law. The complaints state that the Ministry of Education and Culture has been drafting the new copyright law in secret, even thought the Finnish freedom of information act obliges it to keep citizens informed not only on the final results, but also on its ongoing work. The complaints also point out that the wording and planned criteria for web blocking and requests for personal data of web users have not been available. Furthermore, the complaints argue that the lack of transparency is not unique to this specific case, but it seems to be a commonly used method to prevent a constructive, open dialogue with all the stakeholders, and to complicate the participation of the civil society to the lawmaking process.

“During the preparation of the draft law, the Ministry of Education and Culture organised hearings to which civil society representatives were invited. However,ministries are also obliged to request written statements on the finalised draft law. This has not been done,” reminds Joonas Pekkanen, representative of the citizens’ initiative. “According to the information circulating in the media, there are also provisions included in the draft law, such as so called “must carry” provision, that have not been announced publicly, and of which no information is available on the website of the Ministry.”

The processing of the citizens’ initiative was scheduled to be terminated in the meeting of the Education and Culture Committee on 2 October 2014. However, the discussion was interrupted and the decision postponed to the next meeting. On 8 October, the Committee concluded the handling of the initiative, as expected. In its report, the Committee notes that the initiative suggests several ambitious amendments, but that it considers it impossible to propose, based on the initiative, even partial changes to the existing copyright law. The report states that the initiative includes internal contradictions and that many of the amendments it suggests are too significantly incompatible with the current legislation. However, the Committee admits the obvious need for finding solutions to adapt the copyright legislation to respond to the needs of the new digital environment.

The full house of the parliament is expected to have the vote on the initiative next week. It’s unlikely but still possible that certain parts of the initiative will be accepted.

Three complaints to the Chancellor of Justice about the secrecy of the preparations of the new copyright law (only in Finnish, 01.10.2014)
http://yle.fi/uutiset/kolme_kantelua_oikeuskanslerille_tekijanoikeuslain_valmistelun_salailusta/7501924

A complaint about the secrecy of the preparations of the copyright law submitted to the Chancellor of Justice (only in Finnish, 01.10.2014)
http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/a1412128353419

A complaint about the actions of the Education and Culture Committee to the Chancellor of Justice (only in Finnish, 01.10.2014)
http://www.verkkouutiset.fi/kotimaa/kantelu_avoin_ministerio-26194

Minutes of the meeting of the Education and Culture Committee on 2 October 2014 (only in Finnish, 02.10.2014)
http://www.eduskunta.fi/faktatmp/utatmp/akxtmp/sivp_62_2014_p.shtml

Minutes of the meeting of the Education and Culture Committee on 8 October 2014 (only in Finnish, 08.10.2014)
http://www.eduskunta.fi/faktatmp/utatmp/akxtmp/sivp_65_2014_p.shtml

Report of the Copyright Commission of the Ministry of Education and Culture concerning the citizens’ initiative “Common Sense For Copyright” (only in Finnish, 08.10.2014)
http://www.eduskunta.fi/faktatmp/utatmp/akxtmp/sivm_9_2014_p.shtml

EDRi-gram: Finnish copyright initiative: Unbalanced expert hearings (10.09.2014)
http://edri.org/finnish-copyright-initiative-unbalanced-expert-hearings/

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