Chisugate: Copyright blackmail in Finland

By EDRi · December 5, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Chisugate: Copyright-Erpressung in Finnland |]

In the spring of 2012, in Finland, the father of a young girl received
what amounted to a blackmail letter from a copyright lawyer. The letter
demanded the payment of 600 Euros as damages for having distributed
copyright-protected music recordings. The letter also demanded that the
father sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the matter.

The father contacted the lawyer and denied having distributed any
copyrighted material. He explained that his daughter, who had been nine
years old at the time of the so-called crimes, had tried to download
some songs of her idol, the Finnish artist called Chisu. The girl had
been saving money in order to buy Chisu’s latest CD, but was impatient
to hear some songs from the album already, and so her dad showed her how
to write the appropriate keywords in search engines. Despite her
attempts, the girl only managed to download something that did not play.
Soon after that the father bought the CD for the girl.

In November 2012, something unbelievable happened. Two police officers
with a search warrant entered the home of the family and seized the
girl’s computer. The police officers also suggested the father pay up
“to make things easier for everyone involved” because they would
immediately drop the matter if he did.

Even the Finnish Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (TTVK ry,
a private association of the copyright industry) has admitted that the
identity of a person who shares copyrighted material online cannot be
ascertained, and that, in Finland, the threat letters are sent to the
owner of the Internet connection. The owner of the connection is the one
who risks being subjected to a search and seizure of property.

TTVK also says that the majority of people who have received these
letters have agreed to the non-disclosure and payments demanded of them.
The amounts are smaller than in the US, but still hefty. Shocking but
true, apparently a copyright holder can demand mafia-style payments from
ordinary people who are told to hand over their money and shut up or
otherwise the police might come and take away their computers. TTVK has
openly admitted that the aim of the letters is to threaten other

The disturbing incident was covered in the Finnish online and printed
press, and made international headlines. In his detailed Facebook post
about the incident, the father makes it clear that he has supported
artists in many ways for his entire life, but as a result of the
unethical practices of the copyright industry he has come to question
the sanity of the copyright enforcement system.

After the incident had become a major PR headache for the copyright
lobby, the matter was settled out of court between the father and TTVK,
and the father apparently agreed to pay half of the originally demanded
amount (300 Euros). After this, the seized laptop is being returned to
its owner.

Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi) filed a request to investigate the
actions of the Helsinki district court and the police with the
parliamentary ombudsman. According to the court papers, TTVK only
had evidence that one music album had been downloaded from the IP
address which belonged to the father. The court interpreted this as
constituting significant ongoing damage to the copyright holder and
ordered the ISP to reveal the identity of the user of the IP address to
TTVK. In the opinion of Effi, this is an overreaching interpretation of
the Finnish copyright law. The police “planned the search and seizure
carefully” (in their own words) but failed to act in proportion to the
alleged damage: they should have only copied the contents of the laptop
for evidence instead of seizing the whole device. Additionally, as
police resources are limited nowadays, carrying out a search and seizure
operation in a minor case like this has probably delayed the
investigation of more important cases.

Antipiracy Center in Finland

Payment demand for child’s downloading part of a strike against piracy –
majority paid without resisting (only in Finnish, 21.11.2012)

Payments of hundreds of euros for illegally downloading Chisu’s album
(only in Finnish, 2.12.2012)

Post on Facebook from the father (only in Finnish, 20.11.2012)

Request to investigate the actions of Helsinki district court and the
police in so-called Chisugate (only in Finnish, 27.11.2012)

Anti-piracy group takes child’s laptop in Finland (30.11.2012)

(Contribution by Otso Kassinen and Timo Karjalainen – EDRi member
Electronic Frontier Finland)