New Download Ban Won’t Work, Politicians Say

A Dutch ban on the downloading of copyrighted material from unauthorized sources was cheered by the entertainment industries recently, but will fall short of achieving its aims. That's the opinion of several politicians who believe that only by providing better legal options will the situation improve. As they call for debate, a government spokesperson predicted that the ban will make it easier to chase down 'pirate' sites.

Just like other citizens around the globe, for years the Dutch have enjoyed downloading their favorite music, movies and TV shows from the Internet. However, while people in most other countries do so while breaking the law, residents of the Netherlands had no fear of being fined, or worse.

This position was made possible by the introduction of a levy on writable media such as blank DVDs and CDs, and other storage-capable devices such as hard drives, media players and smart phones. A portion of the sales revenues on these devices went to the rightsholders in an attempt to compensate them for their perceived losses.

But despite years of operation, earlier this month the system came to an abrupt halt. Following complaints from electronics manufacturers upset that their products were being made more expensive by the levy, a landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice declared the system illegal. The Dutch government responded by declaring that downloading from illegal sources was banned with immediate effect.

But while downloading of copyrighted content was outlawed (uploading was already illegal), few people believed that a handful of words from the government was likely to change the position on the ground. Furthermore, since the ban was hastily introduced on April 10, members of parliament have begun calling for a debate on its consequences.

“We do not want a ban, but would rather have a broad discussion focused on ways to reduce unpaid downloading,” D66 MP Kees Verhoeven told NU.nl.

“The aim of the download ban is to reduce the amount of unpaid material being downloaded, but experience shows that bans do not help in such cases.”

Labour MP Astrid Oosenbrug also called for debate on the download ban, which she first heard about through the media.

“I read about this new measure in the news,” she said, adding that soon after consumers began asking questions about how it would affect the private copying levy.

“Therefore, both MPs and citizens are unclear about the implications of this prohibition,” she said.

Calling for a debate with the Secretary of State in May, D66 MP Kees Verhoeven said that his party doesn’t want prohibition, but would prefer to see entertainment companies work on better legal offerings instead.

“It is important that the legal supply of music, films and series, is both accessible and of a high quality,” he said. “We do not want a ban, but a larger legal offer.”

Separately, in comments reported by Tweakers, Wiebe Alkema, spokesperson for the Ministry of Security and Justice, said the download ban would make it easier for entertainment companies to go after ‘pirate’ sites, since there is no longer a legal gray area.

“The burden of proof is easier,” he said.

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