Intellectual Property Group Threatens to List Estonia as Rogue State

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The Justice Ministry has come under additional pressure from a leading intellectual property trade alliance to "cooperate" or face the possible blacklisting of the country as non-compliant. Meanwhile, electronic freedom activists are already digging in for a fight on the other side.

The ministry held a preliminary roundtable meeting on Monday prompted by the latest missive from intellectual property watchdogs - a proposal for cooperation from BSA Software Alliance addressed to Minister Hanno Pevkur received in late March.

The letter, signed by the organization's Estonian representative, lawyer Kaido Uduste, refers to a February proposal from the International Intellectual Property Alliance that the US government add Estonia to the Special Mention list that indicates the country is not completely compliant.

In the Uduste letter, BSA laid out five assertions, including that none of the three branches of democratic power prioritizes any form of intellectual property protection, and that the country "drafts systematic amendments to legislation aimed at decriminalizing intellectual property violations" and "favors consumer rights over those of authors and rights holders."

Civil remedies, it said, were insufficient and complicated.

An official from the Justice Ministry refrained from comment on the specific BSA letter, pending a full statement from a spokesperson, but said the general situation on the copyright sphere was complicated and the state sought to "find a balance."

On Thursday, the Estonian Internet Community slammed the letter from  BSA as a thinly veiled threat, and said the digital market was not keeping up with consumer rights that would allow people to access media legally.

“This is a modern protection racket," said Elver Loho, the deputy head of the non-profit, in a statement. "I haven't seen such a brazen public ultimatum yet in this field.” He said ACTA had been a vague danger while the Uduste letter was "like a gun to the head."

Loho, who said he bought his software legally online, said he did so "not for fear of court and fines, but because it is more convenient and safer than piracy."

He cited the case of eagerly awaited services such as a popular online film rental site, which continues to be put off.

"The main reasons these services are not in Estonia yet is that it is a small market and the excessive copyright protection hinders service providers for negotiations for licenses that include Estonian territory," he said.
Although Spotify arrived in Estonia this week, personnel at the Swedish company long bemoaned the slow pace of satisfying the legal technicalities.

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