The Inform Society and the Law

A two-year Master’s Degree Program in Intellectual property and information law at the Faculty of Law, University of Turku.

Some years ago, law faculties in Finland were prevented by the law to establish English-language Master’s Degree Programs in law. The Finnish laws secured the Master of Laws -title only for students having a Bachelor’s Degree in law from Finland as their educational background.

After legislative change, law faculties can nowadays offer English-language Master’s Degree Programs. One of the new Programs is the Master’s Degree Program in Law and Information Society (LIS), offered by University of Turku. The Program has been running since 2011.

Two-year program

LIS is a two-year Program. It seeks to provide the students with the essential insights, capabilities and intellectual tools to analyse the legal problems of the information society. It concentrates on international and European levels of regulation and their interaction with national laws. Through its partners from the US, it also covers for example the foundations of US intellectual property law.

The Program is built on the experiences of a previous one-year diploma-program in Innovation and Communications Law. The Faculty of Law at the University of Turku has had extensive experience of English-language education through its cooperation with the Turku School of Economics and Åbo Akademi University, both having legal units of their own. The joint venture of the three parties, the Turku Law School, offers a broad range of high-quality courses in the English language.

Establishing the new Master’s Degree Program did not require the creation of many new courses. Quite certainly, we invested considerably in the development of the curriculum. However, we did not have to start from scratch.

Combination of private and public law

The Program offers a unique combination of private and public law and interdisciplinary perspectives. Intellectual property and information law interact strongly with European constitutional law. This can be clearly seen from the recent case law of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). For example data protection, freedom of expression and freedom to conduct a business tend to interact with intellectual property rights. Intellectual property and information lawyers have to understand this broader constitutional framework.

Similarly, international norms in the area of intellectual property proliferate. The most recent phenomenon is perhaps the development of international “counter-norms” for strong intellectual property rights. For example, the Nagoya Protocol, concluded under the Convention on Biological Diversity, regulates access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization. Such norms affect the international protection of intellectual property through the traditional intellectual property norms and institutions, like the WTO and WIPO.

Competition has constitutional dimensions

The third important interface of intellectual property norms is their relationship with competition or antitrust law. Competition cases against Microsoft and Google in Europe and the US demonstrate that also these cases entail constitutional dimensions.

Monopolistic positions in the Internet environment easily aggregate informational power that is relevant for example from the perspective of freedom of expression. Yet such considerations have not fully entered current competition law analysis. Both Microsoft and Google cases well pinpoint the difficulties of finding workable solutions to informational power exercised in the Internet environment. Still a laissez faire approach is likely the worst option.

It is not sufficient that an intellectual property specialist knows the domestic intellectual property norms and cases. She must also understand how the international law develops and interacts with the intellectual property norms, how constitutional law affects intellectual property protection and how the EU-level of protection interacts with the national level. Knowledge of other key jurisdictions and their solutions to the same problems is also nowadays necessary. Legal education must live up to these challenges.

LIS addresses such developments from different perspectives. It provides the students with the foundations of international and European intellectual property law and comparative constitutional law, with a focus on information society relevant developments. It also integrates multi-disciplinary perspectives for example by offering a course on economic analysis of intellectual property law. Advanced Information and Internet law courses also form core parts of the curriculum.

Serious writing

The course on academic legal writing boosts the students’ writing and research skills in English. These are needed throughout the Program, but especially during the second year, when the students write their Master’s Thesis of approximately 70-100 pages. We take the writing of the Master’s Thesis seriously in Turku. It not only prepares the students for future professional research, but also is intended to be internationally relevant and timely legal scholarship.

The program is based on a mix of advanced research-oriented perspectives and more practically oriented lectures and exercises, thus providing the students with a balanced combination of theoretical insights and practical capabilities. Developing one’s skills in legal analysis, critical thinking, research and writing is important for lawyers in demanding positions and legal scholars alike. The Faculty of Law at the University of Turku has invested considerably in teaching methodologies and has won several awards recognizing its efforts in the development of teaching. We are very pleased with LIS in Turku. It has also helped the Law Faculty to strengthen its international connections.  

No tuition fees in Finland

The Finnish legislation does not allow tuition fees and studying in the Program is free! The goal of the Program is to attract excellent students and train them the best we can. The take-home entrance examination has kept the number of applicants limited, but the academic level of the applicants exceptionally high. The intake is only 15 students annually. Also

a maximum of five students already accepted for the Finnish Master’s Degree Program in Law are selected to take the courses of LIS as part of their LL.M.-studies.  The absolute cap of students accepted is 20. At the moment, the students come mainly from Europe, but also from more remote places, such as Indonesia and Pakistan.

One challenge in the Program has been to boost the non-European students’ knowledge of EU law during the first semester, because much of the subject matter in the courses is based on international and EU law. For this purpose, a tutoring system that guides the students to the appropriate courses has been developed. The core courses have obtained the highest possible scores from the students. This is quite exceptional.

Who can apply?

The applicant must have completed a lower university degree equivalent to a Finnish Bachelor’s degree. Most of the credits in the degree should be from legal studies. The degree required must be completed well before the Program starts. The applicants must be fluent in English. Students not having a Bachelor’s Degree in Law from Finland as their educational background (or those who have passed an EEA aptitude test for the Bachelor of Laws level) will be awarded the Master of International and Comparative Law degree.

 

More information about the Program can be obtained through the web-pages of the Program:

http://www.utu.fi/en/units/law/studying/masters-degree-program/Pages/home.aspx

Tuomas Mylly
Associate Professor
University of Turku