Since last year the Finnish public has had the option of suggesting the kind of laws they want to be governed under.
A recent modification of the national Constitution allows citizens to make legislative proposals for Parliament to vote on, providing they get 50,000 supporters within six months.
One of the submitted proposals, which calls for a fairer copyright law, just reached its goal one day before the voting deadline. This makes Finland the first country in the world in which legislators will vote on a copyright law that was drafted by citizens.
Termed “The Common Sense in Copyright Act,” the proposal wants to reduce penalties for copyright infringement, increase fair use, ban unfair clauses in recording contracts, and ease the ability for people to make copies of items they already own for backup and time-shifting purposes.
The decriminalization of file-sharing will also put a stop to house searches and online surveillance of suspected copyright infringers, not uncommon events in Finland.
Last year a house search resulted in international outrage when it was revealed that a police unit raided a 9-year-old girl and confiscated her Winnie the Pooh laptop after an allegation of sharing.
Now that the goal of 50,000 votes has been reached the copyright law proposal will be put to the vote in the Finnish Parliament. This is likely to take place early next year.
In the meantime, street artist Sampsa, who pushed the proposal forward together with the Finnish Electronic Frontier Foundation (Effi), continues to gather political support for the law, not just in Finland, but also in Europe and throughout the rest of the world.
“We’ve begun working closely with European Digital Rights members globally to ensure that when the vote hits the floor in 2014, the pressure is still on so copyright law will be changed forever,” Sampsa told TorrentFreak.
Open Ministry, the organization that coordinates the public proposals, notes that today’s success breaks with an old tradition where lobbyists draft copyright law. This counter-proposal is needed to restore the balance, they argue.
“Members of Parliament are quite open about the fact, that Copyright Laws are handed down to them from the international lobbyists. If we do not push back, they will keep on rubber-stamping harsh legislation and infringing on consumer rights,” Joonas Pekkanen, Chairman of Open Ministry, informs TorrentFreak.
Of course, even if the proposal reaches the goal, there’s no guarantee that the Parliament will sign it into law in its current form. However, for a country that has a voting population of just over four million, a proposal with direct support from 50,000 citizens can’t be easily ignored.