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Kalle Laanet: Fighting digital piracy permanently on the agenda

Kalle Laanet (Reform).
Kalle Laanet (Reform). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Various solutions have been tried to combat online piracy and the search for new ones continues. While the current law prescribes several tools for this, their use is time-consuming, Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet writes.

Earlier in the year, the Ministry of Justice sent out for a round of approval a legislative intent document for amending the Copyright Act to find effective ways to combat illegal online content.

Fighting digital piracy is a mainstay on the ministry's agenda, with various solutions tried and the search for new ones continuing. While the law prescribes several tools for this, their use is time-consuming. Meanwhile, damage done to rights holders keeps mounting for as long as content remains available unlawfully. Both the cause and solution lie in rapidly accelerating technological development.

Rights holders found in the spring of 2022 that the popularity of unlicensed service providers is growing, while a notable part of the latter originate from Russia. The services of content providers who knowingly ignore copyright are becoming increasingly popular.

Representatives of rights holders proposed the creation of a system to block online environments that ignore copyright and associated rights, similarly to what has been done in Lithuania. They added that Lithuanian copyright association LATGA employees have said that the blocking has helped reduce illegal online use of works.

DNS and IP-based blocking in question would allow internet service providers to block access to sites offering illegal content irrespective of the location of its servers. Relevant agencies would be given the necessary rights to order blocks.

First, rights holders or their representatives would have to turn to content providers and ask them to stop copyright infringement. If the latter do not comply within a set time period, the rights holder or their representative could turn to the national watchdog for an analysis and control action should it be established that rights infringement is being committed. Any decisions could be appealed in administrative court. A similar solution is also in use in Belgium and Denmark.

The European Commission is also busy dealing with this matter, having analyzed ways of combating illegal streaming. The Commission in May 2023 introduced proposals of how Member States could more effectively block piracy of live sports and event broadcasts. One such measure is blocking access to sites in breach of rights, which our legal environment currently does not permit.

Naturally, there is no silver bullet solution to the problem. For example, it is equally important to support having more legal content and raise awareness among customers. The idea of the Justice Ministry's initiative is to collect feedback and make the best choice for Estonia.

A balance needs to be struck between different fundamental rights when planning the nature and extent of changes. This means that in addition to rights holders – mainly copyright in this case – the principles of free speech, free artistic expression and entrepreneurial freedom must also be considered.

Copyright protection is an important social dimension, and blocking illegal content is permanently on the Justice Ministry's agenda. Effective copyright protection gives authors and other rights holders economic support and fair recognition for their creative work. I am glad that the initiative has sparked wider debate and fighting piracy has merited public attention.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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