The European Court of Justice has just dealt a blow to Dutch citizens who download copyrighted movies and music without paying for them. The decision has many implications from positive to negative and in between as well. Obvious winners are VPNs. The industry is bound to gain many more users. Ironically, among the losers may be the copyright industry itself which stands to lose money with the abolition of certain current fees. This is because the Court has ruled unlawful the Dutch ’piracy levy’. Under this system in the Netherlands the levy compensated copyright holders for the pirating of their content. Electronics stores and manufacturers were impacted by this levy and it is they who brought suit to end the practice.
The EU court sided with them in declaring the levy system to be unlawful and punitive citing it as a threat to the marketplace in general and, specifically, the copyright holders. The Court said that, ’If member states were free to adopt legislation permitting, inter alia, reproductions for private use to be made from an unlawful source, the result of that would clearly be detrimental to the proper functioning of the internal market”. It added, ’Similarly, the objective of proper support for the dissemination of culture may not be achieved by sacrificing strict protection of copyright or by tolerating illegal forms of distribution of counterfeited or pirated works”.
Hence, the Dutch System which permits the copying of files from pirated sources is now history. Happy are those who legally bought copyrighted material. They have, heretofore, incurred a dual price penalty. For they paid for the product and then paid the government imposed piracy levy on top of that to boot. The Court believed that the levy in a way legitimized an unlawful system. It looked askance at the practice of reproducing files from pirated sources saying that it encouraged the distribution of counterfeit and pirated materials.
The European Court ruling has wide ramifications. The decision is likely to affect other European countries with similar systems. Switzerland, for one, comes immediately to mind as the pirating of works for personal use is permitted there. Copyright holders, on the other hand, may be scratching their heads. How many millions of euros of piracy levy will be lost? Will the revenues from legal sales make up for it? These questions beg for answers.
Sitting pretty are the VPN providers who services allow users to gain access to materials that they would otherwise be unable to. Are you using a VPN? For many people in the Netherlands the time for a VPN has arrived.