Filmmakers Take Dutch State to Court Over Lost Piracy Revenue

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A coalition of Dutch film and TV producers is following through on their threat to file a lawsuit against the local Government. The filmmakers hold the authorities responsible for the country's high piracy rates. They claim the government tolerated and even encouraged unauthorized downloading for years and want to see compensation as a result.

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

In part, the popularity was facilitated by the fact that downloading pirated music had long been legal under local law.

This tolerant stance towards online piracy changed in 2014 when the European Court of Justice ruled it to be unlawful. As a result, the Dutch Government quickly outlawed unauthorized downloading.

Despite the legislative change piracy rates remain high, much to the frustration of the local entertainment industries. Dutch filmmakers and distributors previously accused the Government of not doing enough to counter piracy, while threatening legal action.

Last year the Dutch Government denied these allegations, noting that the filmmakers could go after downloaders directly if they want to recoup their losses. However, they are not backing down.

On Tuesday a group of film and TV show companies issued a summons announcing their legal action, NRC reports. Through the court they hope to hold the Government liable, and if that’s the case, a separate damages procedure will likely follow.

“The producers could have a good chance,” says lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, who specializes in Internet issues. The lawyer added that the film companies “must be able to demonstrate that they have suffered financial loss.”

Fellow lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet agrees but notes that it might be tricky to calculate the scale of the damages since a pirate download doesn’t directly translate to a lost sale.

In any case, the claimed compensation will be substantial. Last year film industry group VPSO already asked for 1.2 billion euros ($1.27 billion) in damages for piracy losses that were allegedly suffered since 2004.

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