Compared to many other countries around the world, pirating movies and TV-shows is hugely popular in the Netherlands.
Up to a third of the population is estimated to download and stream copyrighted content without paying for it.
This high percentage is not surprising as the Netherlands has traditionally been a relative safe haven for pirates. Downloading movies without permission was not punishable by law until last year when the European Court of Justice spoke out against the tolerant stance.
In response the Dutch Government quickly outlawed unauthorized downloading but breaking the habits of a large section of the population will take more than that and local piracy rates remain high.
According to the Dutch Association of Professional Film Entrepreneurs (VPSO) and several independent distributors, the local Government is not doing enough to enforce the ban on unauthorized file-sharing.
As a result the filmmakers today announced plans to sue the Dutch state over its weak enforcement. The VPSO estimates that the local movie industry is losing hundreds of millions of euros per year, in part due to the Government’s lax stance on the issue.
The group argues that the Government should follow Germany’s lead when it comes to anti-piracy enforcement. German authorities frequently prosecute pirate site operators, which is one of the reasons why VOD and DVD sales are rising again, the filmmakers state.
In addition, this year Dutch film companies have increasingly hinted that they’re prepared to take civil action against online pirates.
A few weeks ago the distribution company Dutch Filmworks registered the local Popcorn Time trademarks for possible future enforcement actions and the company also said it is considering going after individual file-sharers.
Earlier this year Dutch filmmakers’ association SEKAM submitted a claim for piracy damages to the Ministry of Security and Justice, but this was denied.
The timing of the announced lawsuit doesn’t appear to be a coincidence. This coming Friday the Ministry of Security and Justice will organize a consultation on how to tackle illegal downloading, and today’s news will certainly heat up the debate.