Finnish authorities receive complaints about “piracy letters”

    The sheer number of the so-called piracy letters sent makes it likely that the recipients also include people who have not committed copyright violations, according to a government counsellor at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

    Finns have filed complaints with a number of authorities about the letters sent by law firms to suspected copyright violators, reports Kauppalehti.

    Anna Vuopala, a government counsellor at the Ministry of Education and Culture, reveals to the commerce-oriented newspaper that the issue at hand is not only the intimidating tone but also the sheer number of the letters sent.

Finnish law firms are in recent years believed to have sent tens of thousands of letters to people suspected of downloading or sharing copyright-protected content online, threatening them with legal action unless they agree to pay a settlement fee ranging from hundreds to thousands of euros. It is thus likely that such letters have been sent also to people who have not committed any copyright infringements.

Even elderly people have contacted the authorities about the so-called piracy letters, according to Vuopala.

The Ministry of Culture and Education has responded to the complaints by appointing a task force to identify good practices for copyright surveillance. “We’ll seek to develop good practices and remove any practices that violate the law,” she tells Kauppalehti.

The task force will focus its attention on the provisions in the copyright act that define the grounds on which internet service providers can be compelled to relinquish the contact details of their customers. It is specifically expected to mull over what constitutes the distribution of “a significant amount” of copyright-protected content.
Vuopala, who is the chairperson of the task force, tells that if an agreement on the ground rules cannot be reached with the stakeholders, a legislative revision may be warranted.
The aggressive tactics of law firms have taken courts into uncharted territory.
The Market Court of Finland ordered an individual to pay damages to two copyright holders, Scanbox Entertainment and Crystalis Entertainment, in mid-2016. In February, however, it ruled that the evidence produced by the entertainment companies was not sufficient to prove the alleged copyright violations.
Scanbox Entertainment and Crystalis Entertainment were accusing the individual of distributing a film called A Walk Among the Tombstones and a television series called Black Sails.
The Market Court in June issued a ruling clarifying the evidentiary burden that copyright holders and their representatives must overcome to obtain the contact details of suspected copyright violators. Kauppalehti at the time estimated that the ruling could eventually prevent law firms from sending the letters, at least to the extent they have done over the past decade.
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