Finnish copyright initiative: Unbalanced expert hearings

By EDRi · September 10, 2014

In its meeting on 9 September, the Education and Culture Committee of the Finnish parliament decided to continue the expert hearings for the citizens’ initiative on an update to the copyright legislation, “Common Sense For Copyright”. The decision was somewhat unexpected and a positive surprise, as the original agenda of the meeting stated that the series of experts hearings were to be concluded.

The main goal of the initiative is to correct exaggerated interpretations of the current copyright laws, especially regarding network monitoring and compensation.

After the preliminary hearing of the experts from the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Education and Culture Committee has heard experts in two separate hearings, and requested and received six written opinions. Five out of eight experts that have been heard so far (rightholders, organisations representing rightholders, private enterprises) have possibly strong commercial interests in defending current copyright laws and interpretations. Five out of six written opinions were delivered by organisations representing rightholders. Representatives of teachers, DJs or gaming and software industry have not been consulted during the process.

In a letter, Joonas Pekkanen, representative of the citizens’ initiative, reminded the Education and Culture Committee that independent academic experts such as the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) and Olli Vilanka, who recently defended his doctoral thesis on how the interpretation of the current copyright legislation leads often to narrowing down other fundamental rights, should be consulted.

“The Committee should guarantee a fair processing of the initiative, and include consulting of recent academic research on the subject. The initiative must not be swept under the carpet after hearing only the point of views of parties that have already been heard, and who have strong self-interest in taking a certain position,” he added.

He also suggested that the Committee should ask the Constitutional Law Committee of the Parliament to provide their statement regarding the initiative.

“The initiative includes issues that might profit from the point of view of the Constitutional Law Committee. But it’s the responsibility of the Education and Culture Committee to decide if that’s necessary, and I don’t know whether they are planning to request a statement,” told Johannes Koskinen, the chairman of the Constitutional Law Committee, to EDRi-gram prior to the Committee meeting. “It would be good to handle these issues with care and consideration, not in one big lump, but giving every point the attention it requires,” he added.

Even if the Education and Culture Committee decided to continue the experts hearings by asking for the written opinions from the FCCA and Olli Vilanka, as suggested by Pekkanen, as well as from Rainer Oesch, professor at the University of Helsinki, it didn’t, however, see it necessary to proceed with Pekkanen’s suggestion to request a statement from the Constitutional Law Committee.

Finnish Citizens Initiative – Common Sense For Copyright

Copyright narrows down the citizens’ right to science and culture (only in Finnish, 04.09.2014)

Copyright 2014 seminar in Citizen Info (only in Finnish)

Joonas Pekkanen’s letter to the Education and Culture Committee of the Finnish Parliament (07.09.2014)

Minutes of the 9 September meeting of the Education and Culture Committee (only in Finnish, 09.09.2014)

EDRi: Finnish Parliament argued over the copyright initiative (21.05.2014)