The Finnish Consumer Agency considers terms and technical methods that unnecessarily restrict and weaken consumers' position as users of digital materials unfair. Ordinary home use of a product should be easy and practical, without restricting fair use. Liability should also be shared fairly in copyright matters.
In a statement that it sent to the Ministry of Education concerning the development of copyright legislation and the copyright system, the Consumer Agency said that legislation should have a guiding influence so that using products is not made unnecessarily difficult.
The use of any system that is technically possible cannot be considered justified. Legislation should create a framework in which new technologies or business models can be applied in such a way that the sharing of liability between consumers and businesses remains fair and predictable.
Businesses always face risks, and legislation should not be viewed as something that automatically follows and adapts to changes in technology.
In evaluating this issue one must not forget users' and consumers' justified preconditions, which should act as a framework setting minimum levels. The basic question is whether consumers can use materials in a reasonable manner.
Writing end users' basic rights into legislation so as to achieve a proper balance can be considered justified.
Copyright issues have often concerned the protection of consumers as end users of services.
The shift to digital technology has led to changes in the use of music and other files. We have moved from trade in products to trade in content, in which case restrictions are possible with technical methods and contract terms.
The change has also placed pressure on legislation, and development has been taken into consideration in the Copyright Act, among other things. In the opinion of the Consumer Agency, consumers' position has not been given sufficient attention in legislation or business practices.
Copyright itself is not a problem for consumer protection. Difficulties arise when restrictions are placed on products so that consumers cannot use purchased content in the way they want and expect.
The threat is that consumers will cease to buy and use products that are subject to restrictions. In the worst case they may shift to illegal products and services, which is not desirable from anyone's viewpoint.
In the end it all comes down to businesses' contract terms.
Although technology has developed and the operating environment has changed, the Consumer Protection Act's basic requirement of fair contract terms still stands. This also means taking consumers' rights into consideration in businesses' contract terms and in planning legislation.
A contract term is unfair if it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations, to the detriment of the consumer.