Piracy Fines For Dutch Pirates, Starting This Autumn

Dutch Filmworks (DFW) has announced that it will begin issuing fines to Dutch movie pirates this autumn. Dozens of movie titles will be monitored by the distributor but ISPs are not yet in a cooperative mood to hand over customer details. Worryingly, however, early signs suggest that DFW's operation could be backed by an international copyright-trolling operation.

In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that the “piracy levy”, used in the Netherlands to compensate rightsholders for illicit downloading, was unlawful. In the immediate aftermath, downloading from unauthorized sources was banned.

Three years on and illegal downloading is still considered by rightsholders to be a problem that needs to be brought under control. This means that BitTorrent users are the number one target since their activities also involve uploading, something that most courts consider to be a relatively serious offense.

With that in mind, Dutch film distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW) is preparing a wave of anti-piracy activity that looks set to mimic the copyright-trolling activities of similar outfits all over the world.

A recent application to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens), revealed that DFW wishes to combat “the unlawful dissemination of copyright protected works” by monitoring the activities of BitTorrent users.

“DFW intends to collect data from people who exchange files over the Internet through BitTorrent networks. The data processing consists of capturing proof of exchange of files via IP addresses for the purpose of researching involvement of these users in the distribution or reproduction of copyrighted works,” it reads.

People who are monitored sharing DFW titles (the company says it intends to track people sharing dozens of releases) will get a letter with an offer to settle in advance of being taken to court. Speaking with NOS, DFW CEO Willem Pruijsserts now reveals that the campaign will begin in the autumn.

“[The lettter] will propose a fee,” he says. “If someone does not agree [to pay], the organization can start a lawsuit.”

Quite how much DFW will ask for is not yet clear, but Pruijsserts says the Dutch model will be more reasonable than similar schemes underway in other regions.

“In Germany, this costs between €800 and €1,000, although we find this a bit excessive. But of course it has to be a deterrent, so it will be more than a tenner or two,” he said.

In comments to RTLZ, Pruijsserts confirmed ‘fines’ of at least hundreds of euros.

According to documents filed with the Dutch data protection authority, DFW will employ an external German-based tracking company to monitor alleged pirates which will “automatically participate in swarms in which works from DFW are being shared.” The company has been named by RTL Z as German company Excipion, which could be linked to the monitoring outfit Tecxipio, which began as Excipio.

In conversation with NOS, Pruijsserts said that “hundreds of thousands” of people watched films like Mechanic: Resurrection without paying. This particular movie is notable for appearing in many piracy cases in the United States. It is one of the titles pursued relentlessly by lawyers acting in concert with notorious copyright-trolling outfit Guardaley.

Perhaps the most crucial element moving forward is whether DFW will be able to get ISPs to cooperate in handing over the personal details of allegedly infringing subscribers. Thus far, ISPs Ziggo and KPN have indicated they won’t do so without a court order, so further legal action will be required for DFW to progress.

When DFW’s application for discovery is heard by the court, it will be interesting to see how far the ISPs dig into the anti-piracy scheme. Finding out more about Guardaley, if the company is indeed involved, would be an intriguing approach, especially given the outfit’s tendency to scurry away (1,2) when coming under intense scrutiny.

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