For many years, the Netherlands has been a relatively safe haven for online pirates.
Downloading movies without permission was not punishable by law, as long as it was for personal use. This changed in 2014 when the European Court of Justice spoke out against the tolerant stance.
In response, the Dutch Government quickly outlawed unauthorized downloading. However, breaking the habits of a large section of the population remains a challenge to date.
While local anti-piracy group BREIN has been very active in its enforcement actions, these only affect a small group of people. To expand its reach, the group previously obtained permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to track and store the personal data of alleged BitTorrent pirates.
By using in-house software that automatically gathers IP-addresses of seeders, hundreds if not thousands of copyright infringers can be easily pinpointed.
Two years have passed since BREIN first announced this strategy, but thus far it has resulted in little action. According to BREIN director Tim Kuik, the plans were delayed until the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect.
However, the plans to go after pirates are still on. The group plans to target both initial uploaders as well as frequent seeders.
“The approach of the first and large uploader works well, but there is a larger group of users of file-sharing platforms that serve as a source,” Kuik tells Tweakers.
“Because they make frequent use of it and remain active as a seeder, we believe that they play an essential role in maintaining the system.”
Kuik does not want to reveal details on how the system operates. As a result, it is not clear, for example, when exactly a BitTorrent user is considered to be a ‘frequent seeder.’
“I don’t want move ahead of things, but the system will take random samples within a certain period of time. When you rise to the top, you fall within the enforcement model,” Kuik notes.
The above suggests that BREIN is mostly interested in structural seeders who upload content for a longer period of time. That said, Dutch torrent users have more to fear than BREIN alone.
Movie distributor Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) also received permission from the Data Protection Authority to monitor and track BitTorrent pirates. They are, perhaps, less likely to be reserved.
When we reached out to the movie distributor a few weeks ago, the company indicated that it would release more news on its plans soon. Thus far, however, no start date has been announced. The same is true for BREIN.
While tracking IP-addresses of BitTorrent users is easy, contacting them might still prove to be a challenge. The rightsholders will require cooperation from the ISPs, or a court order to receive the personal details of the alleged infringers, to make their plan work.
And even then, they have to cross their fingers and hope that BitTorrent pirates don’t run to streaming services.