Starting three years ago, copyright holders began sending out thousands of settlement letters to alleged pirates in Finland, a practice often described as copyright trolling.
In a country with a population of just over five million, copyright holders have cast their net wide. According to local reports, Internet providers handed over details of one hundred thousand customers last year alone.
This practice has not been without controversy. As the settlement letters were sent out, recipients – including some pensioners – started to complain. Many of the accused denied downloading any pirated material but felt threatened by the letters.
Thus far, complaints have been filed with the Market Court, the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, the Consumer Authority, and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
In May, the Ministry of Education set up a working group to create a set of ‘best practices’ for copyright enforcement. The working group includes, among others, Internet providers, and outfits that are involved in sending the influx of settlement letters.
Anna Vuopala, a Government’s counselor at the Ministry of Education and Culture, told Kauppaleht that rightsholders should act within the boundaries of the law.
“We strive to create good practices [for copyright enforcement] and eliminate practices that are contrary to law,” says Vuopala, who’s leading the working group.
If the parties involved can’t reach an agreement on how to proceed, the Government considers changing existing copyright law to defuse the situation. What these changes could be is unclear at this point.
Earlier this year the Finnish market court already dealt a blow to local copyright trolls. In a unanimous ruling, seven judges ruled that the privacy of alleged BitTorrent pirates outweighs the evidence provided by the rightsholders.
While it was clear that copyright infringement was taking place, the rightsholders failed to show that it was significant enough to hand over the requested personal details.
Although this decision supports the rights of those who are falsely accused, the Government believes that a set of good practices is still needed to prevent future excesses and controversy.