October 20, 2014

Finnish parliament to consider crowdsourced copyright law…. sike!


Tears. Just tears. Image via OpenClipArt.org

Tears. Just tears. Image via OpenClipArt.org

Oh haha, Finland. You almost had us convinced you were serious about hearing your citizens’ ideas on copyright.

When you announced your Citizen’s Initiative Act, where any proposed bill that gets 50,000 signatures from Finnish citizens would automatically go before Parliament — including bills that were collaboratively drafted by the public in an open and transparent process run by volunteers — we got all bright-eyed and optimistic about the prospects for democracy.

And when the “Common Sense in Copyright Act” came along, it seemed like you were on track to be the one of the most progressive nations in the world on copyright, the first to consider a copyright bill drafted by its populace, the people whose daughters’ Winnie-the-Pooh laptops you occasionally confiscate for alleged file sharing.

The ideas in it sounded great to us: “reducing illegal downloading from a crime to a misdemeanor, allowing people to make copies of digital data they own, and widening ‘fair use’ of copyrighted materials” (summarized in this RT article)? Yay, excellent! Reasonable solutions all for protecting the rights of copyright holders and consumers, and encouraging the free circulation of ideas. Even a model for other countries to follow as they consider those very questions, like the downsides of DRM and what “fair use” means.

But Finland had us fooled. Because its Parliament decided that, first, they were too busy to look not only at this bill, but also any of the five others that had gone through the drafting and signature-collecting process. And second, the fact that the “Common Sense in Copyright Act” departs from what they’ve go in place at the moment is a problem. From TorrentFreak:

“In its report, the [Finnish Parliament’s Education and Culture] 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.”

“Too significantly incompatible,” eh? What about “not compatible at all, but still a good idea”? Doesn’t that count for something?

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education and Culture has been working on their own copyright bill, and they’re being the opposite of open about it. Joonas Pekkanenn, founder of Open Ministry, the platform that the crowdsourced bills were drafted on, has made a formal complaint about the process (as have Electronic Frontier Finland and the Finnish Pirate Party):

“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…. 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.”

(from an article on the Finnish political site, Verkkouutiset, translated and published by the European Digital Rights organization on their site)

More might come out about what they’re up to soon — Parliament is due to vote on the “Common Sense in Copyright Act” next week.

But because Finland clearly likes to break our hearts and make us cry, I would recommend holding off on the Moomin fan fiction for now. Unless, of course, it is as adorably scrambled as this example:

It was a lightful day at moominvalley. The sun was rising behind the lonely mountains. Poppy flowers were opening their petals, when tiny, sleepy bees were crawling from inside them. It looks like the weather couldn’t be better. But even so, there is going to happen something, that anyone couldn’t wait.



Sal Robinson is a former Melville House editor. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.