Pirate download ban: Dutch politicians rebel with calls of 'leave consumers alone'

Pirate download ban: Dutch politicians rebel with calls of 'leave consumers alone'

Summary: After the Netherlands decided that downloading pirate content was illegal in the country earlier this month, the country's politicians are calling for a debate on the ban.

TOPICS: Piracy, Government, EU

After downloading pirated content became illegal in the Netherlands earlier this month, Dutch politicians are up in arms about the change.

A majority of the Dutch parliament has called for a debate with secretary of state for justice and security Fred Teeven on the ban on downloading copyright-infringing content that was recently invoked in the Netherlands.

Up until recently, downloading copyright-infringing content — as opposed to uploading it for sharing purposes — was not a crime for those living in the Netherlands. On 10 April, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that there are no legal grounds for the Dutch government to tolerate downloads from illegal sources, regardless of its defence that there are no legal means to prevent such downloads from happening.

As a result of the court's ruling, the Dutch parliament released a statement that, effective immediately, downloading pirate content is illegal in the country.

Not that simple

However, a majority of the parties in the Dutch parliament doesn't think the change should be as simple as that, and wants to have a debate with the secretary of state about the matter, according to the minutes of a parliamentary meeting on the topic.  

Astrid Oosenbrug of the PvdA party said: "The parliament claims that the European Court of Justice's ruling means that downloading from illegal sources is no longer permitted. Effectively, this means that citizens who — until recently — could download whatever they wanted, are now suddenly criminalised due to the way the parliament is interpreting the ruling.

"This is a bad situation in the PvdA's view, and therefore it wants any ambiguities to be resolved at very short notice. That is why I would like to have a debate with the secretary of state for security and justice about this download ban."

The proposal backing a debate was supported by a majority of the parties in the parliament during a vote on Wednesday.

Leave consumers alone

D66-party member Kees Verhoeven said: "We don't really believe in a ban, we’d much rather have a broad discussion focused on methods to reduce downloads that consumers aren't paying for. The only purpose of a download ban is to reduce the number of unpaid material; however, experience dictates that this these kinds of bans don't work at all.

"What we should focus on is trying to reduce or even eliminate the barriers between consumers and the legal supply of music, movies and TV shows and on improving the quality of this material. We don't want a ban, we simply want more legal options."

Oosebrug agrees with her fellow parliamentarian on the need to focus on improving legal means of accessing content, rather than on keeping the ban in place: "I think it is important to tackle the source, the organisations that provide illegal access to copyrighted content, and I believe we should leave the consumer be.

"The most important thing is that we protect net neutrality. Plus, I am somewhat allergic to bans, I sincerely believe that the constructive method is the better one. But whatever we do, we need to do it now, and not in ten years." 

Read more on piracy

Topics: Piracy, Government, EU

Martin Gijzemijter

About Martin Gijzemijter

Martin began his IT career in 1998 covering games and gadgets, only to discover that the scope of his interests extended far beyond that. Ironically, where he used to cover 'anything with a plug', he now focuses on the wireless world. A self-pronounced Apple enthusiast who can't live without his Windows PC, he writes tech news, reviews and tutorials for the Dutch market and stories about flying elephants for his two sons.

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  • Politicians

    I just wish that other governments were so enlightened and those idiots in Brussels would stick to worrying about how they can justify their latest expense claim, and how much we are paying them!
    The real discussion is why does the content cost so much, and do celebrities sports-stars, and managers, really need to be paid so much for so little? If we lowered the legal cost of accessing media, people would simply not bother to steal it.
    I watch 90% of my TV by recording it first, or by downloading it from services such as Amazon simply so I can avoid the endless adverts. I am happy to pay 90 cents for the latest MP3, but if it was say €5 I would also think about alternative ways of getting it.
  • Agreed

    Whatever anyone wants to claim, the problem isn't illegal downloads or the people downloading them. There are two problems.

    1.) People sharing the files - obviously illegal and these people will share regardless of legal methods available, for the most part.

    2.) This is the biggest problem: The content is so riddled with DRM, or not available, or so GOD BLESSED EXPENSIVE that most people can't support buying shows. There needs to be a better way to access content.

    I would pay good money to be able to access all of my favorite shows. I don't want to overpay for crap I don't want. It's ridiculous to pay $3 or $4 per episode for a show I will watch once. If I do pay for it, I can only access it on certain devices, since it is DRM'd to be locked to Apple, Amazon, etc. Apple made cheap music and ala carte access the norm for music. The music industry was saved. Everyone was downloading, rather than paying $15 for a CD. Most people buy music now, because it's easy to access, DRM-free and relatively inexpensive. This needs to happen for other content and pirating will take a dive. Steam proved this with video games.

    How much proof do these morons need to see it works. Give someone a REASONABLE way to access legal content and they will.
    • Agreed

      Where I'm living, "buying" a HD movie through online streaming - in a single language - costs 25-30$. The choice of single language that's available usually does not include English or the original language. If the vendor ever shuts doors, I can not watch the movie I bought anymore. If I am outside the country where I bought the movie, DRM prevents me from watching the movie. If the vendor makes any changes to its policies, they will affect me retroactively.

      I can also buy the Blueray for 16$, with a whole range of languages and subtitles, store it on any number of devices locally, and watch where and when I want.

      Or, if I want to watch a movie right now (as opposed to mail order or going out to see if a shop has it) I can download the movie in it's original language for free.

      2 out of these 3 options are sensible. The first one is morally questionable.
    • Reasonable still less compelling than free

      Look at torrents for those games on Steam - they tend to go UP during sales. It's impossible to say what people are thinking, but if I had to guess, seeing it advertised makes people think 'oh, I want that'.

      And not even cheap can compete with free.
      luke mayson
      • Cheap competes with free

        Of course cheap can compete with free.

        Currently, to download copyrighted material you first have to search for it, make sure it's not fake, then search a little longer in case you want something exotic such as multiple languages or subtitles. Once acquired you have to store the content on your own hardware, which often isn't accessible from anywhere. Those who download for the first time also have to spend time to figure out how all that stuff works.

        A customer friendly streaming implementation would mean you can get the content you want, start using it while still streaming, do not need a local backup, can access the content easily while on the move, and do not have to worry about it being infected with malware.
  • too well paid

    european politicians and in general administration workers are SO WELL PAID, that they want to justify and keep their jobs by writing and writing infinite memos and laws...

    We just have to pay them less, it is very simple.
    • And why would that result in better politics?

      In the old days, members of Parliament were unpaid, but that meant that only those who were independently wealthy were in a position to serve, unless of course, they were on the take (and officeholders were usually paid low salaries on the theory that as independent gentlemen, they didn't need the money). If you're going to let voters choose the people they judge to be the wisest and ablest of their fellow citizens (without restricting their choice to the gentry), then those elected need to be paid enough to support themselves and their families while they're serving; especially if the job is full time (as executive posts usually have to be).
      John L. Ries
  • If there's a free version

    Some people will choose it every time. Look at downloadable software bundles (particularly games, where sometimes you can buy the entire series for just a few dollars on Steam), and then look at how popular torrents of the same material are.

    It's not always an issue of 'paying too much'. Some people don't want to pay at all, and no matter how many legal options there are, that's not going to change.
    luke mayson
    • Thats' actually a reason why...

      ...copyrights should be enforced, though probably not in the way you were thinking of it. For starters, illegally copyrighted works compete with free alternatives, distorting the market and allowing publishers to portray themselves as victims if their works fail to sell; whereas if only legal copies were available, publishers would be left without excuse. Secondly, bad laws tend to be repealed faster if they're consistently enforced because people get to see the negative consequences of enforcement.
      John L. Ries
  • there are always three options to consider

    1 - to buy content (such as movie)
    2 - to download/stream it for free
    3 - to realise that free download is not available, and go play tennis with a friend instead.

    It is easy to see how I benefit from taking the third option, but for the life of mine, I do not understand what is the difference for the content producer between me taking the second or the third option.

    Content producers seem to assume that if people had no other options than to pay for the content, all those who are downloading it for free now would have gone out and bought it. This is a silly notion. People are downloading tons of free content, and half of it just sits on the hard drives. The volume of the downloads is so high not because the content is so desirable, but because it is so easy.

    You can ask any manufacturer that tries to lure customers with free samples - how many of those taking the free samples become paying customers later. The answer is very few.

    I see free downloads as people taking free samples. The fact that they do not become paying customers is entirely content provider's issue. It either shows that content is not good enough for the price asked, or that content providers can not come up with a viable business model.
  • Fair enough

    The issue should be debated publicly in the States-General so politicians can make an informed decision on the matter; and their constituents can understand their positions thereon, allowing them to express their pleasure or displeasure, as they think proper; and to cast informed votes when the time comes.

    The traditional rationale behind copyright is promotion of "progress in science and the useful arts" (quoting the US Constitution, which of course, does not apply to the Netherlands), making it a matter of policy, not fundamental right.
    John L. Ries