Finland’s Crowdsourced Copyright Law Proposal

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finlandFrance may be stepping up their HADOPI scheme, but not every European country is heading the same way.

In Finland, a new procedure, passed last year might bring a radical change to the copyright law. The secret is public participation.

There is some history of public participation schemes in several countries already. The US government has the White House petition site where proposals that reach a certain level of support get an official response.

While that’s led to a quick (and amusing) reply on issues like building a Death Star, it wasn’t exactly useful when the public was outraged at MPAA head Chris Dodd’s insinuations of corruption when SOPA/PIPA failed last year.

The situation in Finland is a bit better than that, and more in line with the liquid feedback systems proposed by – and in use with – a number of Pirate Parties.

A recent modification of the national Constitution allows for citizens to make legislative proposals for the Parliament to vote on, providing it gets 50,000 supporters within 6 months. A private initiative, called Open Ministry was then formed to help discuss and collect signatures. Now the first real test of the system is coming with a new Copyright proposal.

Termed ‘To Make Sense of the Copyright Act’, the proposal (in Finnish) takes aim at modern changes in copyright law, and with the 2006 modification in particular, Lex Karpela. Included in the proposal are reducing penalties, increasing fair use, and easing the ability for people to make their own copies of items they already own (for format shifting, or backups)

According to the DailyDot, it was one of the most commented on, and best rated of the proposals on the Open Ministry site. At the time of writing, the proposal, which has been going for two days, has already gathered over 7% of its target, giving it an estimated success date of Feb 18th.

Part of the success might be due to the outrage the Finnish copyright laws generated when it was revealed that a police unit raided a 9yo girl and confiscated her Winnie the Pooh laptop after an allegation of sharing. The matter was eventually settled with the child’s father paying 300 euro to the anti-piracy company CIAPC.

Of course, even if the proposal reaches the goal, there’s no guarantee that the Parliament will accede to its contents. However, any proposal that makes it that far will probably get strong consideration, given that it has to have direct support of more than 1% of the voting public. As we saw in the US a year ago, sometimes sufficient public outcry can drown out even the most determined lobbying.

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