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

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.
Written by Martin Gijzemijter, Contributor

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." 

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