Presently, downloading movies and music for personal use in The Netherlands is seen as “fair use” and not punishable by law. However, in common with most other European countries, The Netherlands is trying to find a solution to the ever-increasing use of file-sharing sites to share copyrighted material.
One of the options for the government is to criminalize unauthorized downloading by making it punishable by law. The entertainment industry, represented by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN among others, have lobbied extensively for such a change. Consumers, on the other hand, prefer to keep things the way they are right now.
Backing interests of the general public, Dutch consumer rights organization Consumentenbond has started a campaign where they defend the public’s right to download copyrighted material without repercussions.
“Sometimes I buy, sometimes I download, but I am not a criminal..,” is the message the consumer organization is trying to put across in the newly launched campaign.
The rationale behind the campaign is that the the entertainment industry has failed to provide sufficient legal alternatives to online piracy, leaving consumers no other choice than to consume online media through file-sharing sites.
“At the moment, paid downloads don’t offer any added value compared to unauthorized downloads,” Bart Combée, Director of the Consumer Rights Organization said . “Before criminalizing consumers, the industry has to make sure that they offer a decent amount of content. Once that improves, I think consumers are willing to pay,” he added.
Previously, the consumer rights organization also stood up for users of The Pirate Bay, after the Amsterdam court ruled that the site should block Dutch users without reviewing the evidence carefully.
The present campaign reiterates what many others have said before. There has to be a fair balance between the interests of multi-billion dollar companies and the individual rights of consumers. And since a report commissioned by the Dutch government recently concluded that file-sharing actually has a positive effect on the economy, it might be best to keep things the way they are for now.