Dutch court rules against law that allowed file downloading

Ruling made in STOBI versus SONT case

A court in the Netherlands has ruled against an interpretation of local copyright law that allowed for downloading of copyrighted materials.

"An explanation by the minister and government, which concludes that a private copy from an illegal source should be considered to be legal, is violating [the law]," a court in the city of The Hague ruled on Wednesday.

The Netherlands currently have a unique legal situation where downloading of copyrighted materials is allowed and only uploading is forbidden. The judge now ruled that when the original source is illegal, any copies too should be considered illegal.

The Dutch justice minister in 2006 created the exception to allow for the pragmatic enforcement of copyright laws. A law similar to the U.S. Home recording act allows consumers to make copies of CDs and other media that they had legally purchased. Since it is impossible to verify if a user downloading a file was entitled to do so under the Home Recording Act, all downloading was sanctioned.

Legal experts cautioned that the consequences of the ruling have yet to be determined. In addition to a ban on downloading copyrighted materials, parties could also decide to increase copy levies on rewritable CDs and DVDs or expand such levies to other media such as hard drives and hard disk recorders.

The NVPI, a trade group representing producers and importers of audio and video materials, said it was pleased with the ruling. The organisation has always maintained that the exemption violated European rules. "I don't know many rulings where a judge is directly overruling the minister," NVPI spokesperson Wouter Rutten told Webwereld, a Dutch IDG affiliate.

The ruling is was made in a case between STOBI and SONT. STOBI represents manufacturers of rewritable media such as DVDs and CDs. SONT collects copy levies that are waged on such media to compensate artists for illegal copying. Those levies are collected by STOBI's members. The suit demanding that the levies be lowered. The judge sided with some of their arguments, prompting STOBI to predict a lowering in copy levies.

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Tom Sanders

WebWereld Netherlands

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