Downloading Movies and Music Stays Legal in The Netherlands

One third of the Dutch population downloads "pirated" music, movies and games from the Internet, and for a while the government has been wondering what to do about it. In recent weeks a "download ban" was put on the political agenda, but the House of Representatives struck down this plan yesterday. Downloading remains legal, and in exchange rightsholders will be compensated through a private copying tax on various media storage devices.

amsterdamAs in many other countries around the world, downloading music and movies is hugely popular in the Netherlands.

Recent surveys estimate that 30% of the population downloads copyrighted music and video files without paying for them, which is currently legal under Dutch law.

However, since last year there have been discussions on making the activity unlawful.

This fall State Secretary for Security and Justice Fred Teeven reintroduced a download ban, but this plan has now been struck down by the House of Representatives. Several political parties decided that a download ban is not the right approach to tackle the “piracy” problem.

Yesterday the majority of the house accepted a motion that would take the plan off the table, and further ensured that the right to make copies for personal use should not be restricted.

“Luckily the House of Representatives clearly chooses to establish the much-needed modernization of copyright law within the limits of Internet freedom,” says Kees Verhoeven, the House member who drafted the motion.

“We need to strive towards increasing the legal availability, through new online business models. A download ban doesn’t really solve the problem of unpaid downloads but is guaranteed to lead to other problems such as the restriction of privacy of individual users,” Verhoeven adds.

The vote means that downloading movies and music for personal use remains legal. However, the entertainment industry isn’t being left out in the cold. Presently, copyright holders in the Netherlands are compensated through a “piracy tax” on blank media such as CDR media and writable DVDs.

In October it was decided that this piracy tax will be extended to a variety of other media storage devices such as tablets, smartphones, USB-drives, PCs and Laptops. The money that’s collected, up to 5 euro per device, will be distributed to copyright holders.

The piracy tax, however, is not without controversy. Hardware makers Acer, HP and Dell have sued the Dutch Government claiming that they could lose millions of Euros in revenue due to the artificial price increase.

“The excessively high tax for the film and music industry is not in proportion with the economic damage caused to the rightsholders,” they say.

For Dutch downloaders, however, everything will stay the same. Movies and music can be downloaded for free without running into legal trouble, as long as the files are not shared with others.

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