Finland extends the right to show films in public with its unique licensing regime without infringing copyright

by Miina Viitala

From 2014 onwards, it has been possible in Finland for other than educational institutions to obtain permission to show film in public without infringing copyright interest of the rightowner. In the first phase, this is covering non-profit organizations, such as churches. From February, 2014 extension covers also hobby-clubs. This extension currently applies only for domestic films but at educational institutions (nurseries, schools) also foreign films can be presented to the public without copyright infringement. The system is unique and doesn’t as such exist in other jurisdictions.

Under Finnish Copyright Law, Article 1 film is an artistic work covered with copyright protection. Among other things, Article 2 provides that the copyright owner has the right to control the communication to the public of his film. Finland allows showing movies for teaching purposes at schools as part of media education. It is argued, that films offering educational content teach students how to evaluate the media critically.

In Finland, collective licensing for showing films at schools is covered by one collective society for audiovisual producers for which the Government has given a contract license mandate.[1] It represents over 200 independent Finnish film and audiovisual producers and through the reciprocal agreement signed with AGICOA it also covers and protects over 10,000 foreign rightowners’ rights on audiovisual works in Finland. AGICOA takes care of Finnish rightowners’ rights abroad. Besides negotiations, the Finnish collecting society collects and distributes copyright royalties for producers. Usually the royalties are distributed from three sources: retransmission; TV-program recording for distributional purposes; and private copy levies. Permission to use is obtained from the Producer Company. Commune can obtain a common use of permission and distribute it for schools in its area or each school can obtain their own permission. An annual fee is directly proportional to the number of students and is currently 2 Euros (approximately £1.65) per student per one year. After paying the fee and getting permission to use, the number of uses is unlimited. This so-called ‘teaching licence’ can be obtained by completing an application form and sending it to the collecting society. Individual display licences also exist if the institution wishes not to pursue an annual teaching licence. For foreign films, the permission to use is obtained with a movie licence.

Under Finnish copyright law, showing private film to others is communication to the public and violates the copyright in the film. Permission is always needed in order to communicate the film to public. With the general permission on movie license one can access thousands of films from rightowners. Individual permission to display can also be acquired; the permission gives right to show the specified film in a separately specified space or place approximately 3-4 times per year. Movie licences are obtained by application form and prices vary according to the institute. General movie licence permission costs 3,50 Euros (approximately £2.90) per student per year plus VAT (24 %).

The Finnish Ministry of Education and copyright management organizations have agreed to have certain TV- and radio-programs available for educational purposes. Under this regime, it is permissible to record educational programs and store them on a permanent basis and record and store other programs for a period of two years respectively. This excludes foreign TV-shows (e.g. soap operas), domestic or foreign movies and commercials. It should be noted that only a few TV channels are within the scope of this agreement and the foreign commercial ones are largely left out. It will be seen in the future whether foreign players are also coming within the exception. As the permission to show films in public is extending for different institutions, it will remain to be seen how far the system suffices to stretch before possible international discussion takes place.

Miina Viitala is LLM Candidate at Queen Mary University of London and is working as a Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute (QMIPRI) Student Research Fellow and Assistant Editor of Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property (QMJIP)

Collective Society For Audiovisual Producers: