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April 11, 2014

EU outlaws private copies from illegal source; government eager to comply

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:07 am

towers-cjeu-press-photosThe Court of Justice of the European Union decided yesterday that the Dutch practice of allowing downloads from an illegal source is itself illegal, Tweakers.net writes.

The court followed the hypothesis of advocate general Pedro Cruz Villalón who felt that the Dutch attitude caused “the mass distribution of illegal materials”. A spokesperson for the Dutch government told NRC that this makes downloading from an illegal source “illegal right away”.

The case was a continuation of one we wrote about earlier, in which manufacturers of blank media argued that since many copies came from illegal sources, the levies they had to pay shouldn’t be so high.

Dutch copyright law contains an exemption that says that copies made for private use are not infringing, regardless of whether the author was paid or not. Member of parliament Astrid Oosenbrug (PvdA) was surprised by the speed with which the government announced a ban on downloading: “That is of course not how things are done.” According to her, the government should explore alternatives first, such as raising levies.

Oosenbrug told 24 Oranges: “PvdA is against a ban on downloading. Citizens should be able to freely use the Internet. We also want to protect the makers, but we shouldn’t do that with bans. Instead we should stimulate legal download models such as Netflix, Spotify, Deezer and so on.”

The Pirate Party’s Dirk Poot (not represented in parliament) called for a drastic revision of copyright law and added that “the government’s attitude is made abundantly clear by the fact that it outlaws downloading as of today, but does not eliminate the levies on blank media with similar haste.”

TL/DR: Copyright law was once a matter between authors and publishers. Now it’s just a mess and everybody’s made to suffer except large publishers and lawyers.

(Photo of the court’s towers by Court of Justice of the European Union / G. Fessy, used with permission)

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March 23, 2013

Copyright trolls bully Dutch author so much he stops blogging

Filed under: Literature by Branko Collin @ 5:00 pm

Ray Kluun has stopped blogging … for now.

The author of Love Life keeps being bombarded with ridiculously high copyright claims over images that he naïvely had been plucking off Google Images in the past to adorn his postings.

In a message that replaces his blog’s frontpage he explains:

Bloggers who borrowed from Google Images in the past have been declared outlawed. Unfortunately I (and many others with me) only found this out recently. All of this has cost me thousands of euros and lots of irritation. Of course I have stopped publishing photos [on this blog] for this reason.

It is however pretty much impossible to remove all photos that I have added to postings on kluun.nl since 2003. I would have to check thousands of articles and remove the photos one by one.

Basic legal tenets, such as the right to a fair trial and the right to a punishment proportional to the wrongdoing have been thrown out the window in the Netherlands in the past few years where it comes to intellectual property. There is an entire cottage industry of so-called copyright trolls who scour the web for infringements. If they find one, the send out bills ten times the price of the license or more. These companies even have their own go-to court, the one of The Hague, where especially judge Chris Hensen is a good friend of the copyright industry.

(Illustration: screenshot of Kluun’s website)

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February 25, 2013

Printing error in law could mean more money for record companies

Filed under: IT,Technology by Branko Collin @ 1:20 pm

Here is some free advice for our government. If you want the difference between gigabit and gigabyte to be clear, do not abbreviate those words!

A small printing error has made it so that multinational record companies can pump even more of our tax money out of the country, at least in theory. In October last year the Ministry of Justice published a table of copyright levies in Staatsblad, the official government newspaper in which laws and decisions must be printed to become legal. Where the ministry wanted to write ‘gigabyte’, it wrote ‘Gb’, an abbreviation meaning gigabit. When talking about storage a byte typically contains 8 bits.

This means that legally speaking people who for example buy a smartphone with 2 gigabytes of storage would have to pay a higher price.

In practice this will likely not occur. Jochem Donker, a legal consultant working for Stichting Thuiskopie, the organisation that will collect the levies, told Webwereld: “We agreed upon gigabytes, so I find it hard to imagine that parliament suddenly changed its mind. This is probably a capslock error. I expect we will not abuse this.” Several lawyers called the use of ‘gigabit’ “an apparent mistake” (kennelijke verschrijving).

The ministry has decided that it will not correct the text until the levies are up for revision in 2014. “If we had meant gigabit, we would have written Gbps.” Fail! Gbps means ‘gigabit per second’. Later the spokesperson admitted that the ministry had made a mistake. “But it is evident that we meant ‘gigabyte’. The reports of the lower house also say ‘gigabyte’.”

Here is more free advice. If you desperately do want to use abbreviations, for instance because you are printing a table and the columns aren’t very wide, explain your abbreviations in a legend.

(Image: Staatsblad)

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March 4, 2012

Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet says “Limit copyright on images”

Filed under: Photography,Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:19 pm

Engelfriet writes on his blog:

An [Internet trend] I had not seen before, Pinterest, is a service that lets you publicly bookmark images, a sort of virtual notice board. [...] Is this legal, can anybody just make a collection of images from everywhere without the rights holders’ permission?

No, this is not legal. [...] If I were older and more cynical, I would now announce the bankruptcy of copyright law for images. Everybody, and I mean everybody, thinks it is normal that you take images off Google for your mood boards, blogs, and Facebook accounts. And this is happening on a grand scale. The uploaders are difficult to track, middlemen are not accountable, and notice-and-take-downs are a lost battle.

[...] If half of the country breaks the law, it is time to start wondering if the law should not be changed.

In the comments Engelfriet (who incidentally has helped us in the past and who regularly comments here too) gives several examples of road rules that have been adapted following civil disobedience: on one hand, cyclists can now turn right on a red light in certain situations, but on the other, they are still obliged to use bike lights when it’s dark outside. Compliance with the latter rule has, however, been increased with safety campaigns and stricter policing.

(Illustration: pinterest.com)

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December 15, 2011

The ‘naive and clumsy’ Dutch film industry

Filed under: Film,IT by Orangemaster @ 1:29 pm

According to a column in Webwereld, the Dutch film industry is asking the government to help them combat illegal downloading, but in fact doing nothing to solve their problem. Let’s have a look at their arguments.

The people who are currently petitioning the government to do something about downloading are movie theatre owners, represented by an ex Minister of Justice. Movie theatres have seen their profit increase by 30 percent in 2010. What’s all the fuss about then? It’s the video shops that are closing, not movie theatres. Record shops are closing left and right, but somehow that’s regarded as normal.

Another argument is that the government should ban downloading and make it illegal. How are they going to enforce it? There are enough measures already many experts will tell you. And they don’t really work.

There is no legal alternative to downloading movies in the Netherlands. If there is, please tell us. Seems like there’s a nice gap in the market, so why is nothing being done? Let me guess, the legislation is messed up and nobody wants to wait six months like a second-class citizen to watch the latest movies anymore.

Yes, people should be paid for their wares, yes downloading hurts many industries, but technology is just going to evolve further, so the time to get creative with solutions is now.

The report was labelled ‘strictly confidential’ and yet it winded up on the Internet for all to see. Either the document wasn’t ‘strictly confidential’ or the people working on this report are not the brightest of lightbulbs.

(Link: webwereld.nl, Photo of film cans by tallfoot, some rights reserved)

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May 3, 2011

Louis Vuitton’s ‘valuable’ brands top trash pile

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 4:22 pm

Last Saturday I wrote that I love buying other people’s junk at the flea market, but I have my limits. One person was selling dozens of Louis Vuitton bags on Queen’s Day, heaped together as on a trash pile, unloved and unbought.

A dirty blanket on the upmarket Apollolaan held these ‘valuable’ branded products, yet none of the intellectual property lawyers living there seemed interested in suing the seller for causing the sort of “irreparable damage” and “serious detriment to the name and reputation of Louis Vuitton”* that the company is suing Danish artist Nadia Plesner for. The French company fined Plesner hundreds of thousands of euro last January with the aid of an all too willing Dutch judge.

Plesner of course appealed the decision, and a fresh decision from a fresh judge is expected to arrive tomorrow.

*) Quotes lifted directly from the court order that Louis Vuitton presumably dictated to judge Hensen.

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February 28, 2011

Copyright vigilantes Brein seize servers illegally

Filed under: Online,Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:46 am

Dutch MPAA representatives Brein have broken the law by removing computer equipment worth hundreds of thousands of euro without a court order, law professor Ton Jongbloed told Tweakers.net last Tuesday. Brein seized 8 servers from hosting provider Al Transa last January.

The Brein foundation claims that the servers contained the warez site SWAN, although its not clear how it reasons that this makes it OK to break the law. Owner Craig Salmond says he will report the foundation to the police for theft, unless Brein gives back his hardware and offers a formal apology. His lawyer added that computervredebreuk, illegal hacking of a computer would also be a possible charge. Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet sees a charge of fraud as more likely to lead to a conviction, whereas the lawyers of IT en Recht are putting their money on a charge of vigilantism.

According to Webwereld, Brein gained the ability to log in to Salmond’s servers before they took the computers. Engelfriet thinks a charge of theft is unlikely to stick, as the maintainer of the 8 computers, another provider called Worldstream, voluntarily handed the machines over to Brein.

On a totally unrelated note, in December 2010 a judge decided to keep a 16-year-old script kiddie another two weeks in jail (by now he has been released) after he allegedly had hacked websites of MasterCard and Visa in retaliation for their treatment of Wikileaks front man Julian Assange. Call it a hunch, but I have severe doubts that we will ever hear of Brein manager Tim Kuik receiving a similar treatment at the hands of his good buddies at the Justice department. I doubt he will even ever spend a second in jail, at least not for copyright related matters. He just doesn’t fit the profile, never mind that the wealthy Brein foundation is in a much better position to make the prosecutor look silly than a gormless teenage high school student is.

(Photo by Malene Thyssen, some rights reserved)

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December 25, 2010

Winter hunting ban; porn and clown voices; secretary most wanted job; and more

Filed under: Animals,Automobiles,General,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:20 pm

* Several provinces have instated hunting bans for a variety of animals because of the cold weather. Zeeland, Drenthe, Noord Holland and Limburg have ordered a general hunting ban, while others have limited their bans to a selection of animals. The Party for the Animals (PvdD) has called for a nationwide ban, Trouw reports.

* Car navigation software voiced by porn actress Kim Holland was the most popular of the Navigatiestemmen.nl stable in 2010, Blik op Persbericht reports. Her voice was also the most popular in 2009. The winner of 2008, Clown Bassie, came second this year. Unrelated: recently Holland’s demand that Internet provider Ziggo release the personal data of a customer suspected of infringing her copyrights was rejected on appeal.

* The most wanted job title on Monsterboard.nl in 2010 was secretary, just like last year. Visitors searched 500,000 times for the title. Manager and controller were other popular job titles, Blik op Nieuws writes.

* Almost 1 billion worth of guilder coins and bills are still hiding underneath mattresses and in other places, Z24 reports. Half of that money is in coins, and can no longer be exchanged for euro. Paper money can be exchanged at the central bank (DNB) until 2031. The amount of unclaimed banknotes seems to be the same as last year’s.

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December 11, 2010

Filming civil servants may cost you your welfare cheque

Filed under: Photography by Branko Collin @ 6:28 pm

The Hague residents who wish to go all Wikileaks on civil servants by filming their interrogators, risk losing their welfare benefits, Sargasso reports.

Blogger Dimitri Tokmetzis discovered this when he received the results of a freedom of information request about the so-called Haagse Pand Brigade, a unit of municipal civil servants that invades the homes of those vaguely suspected of such wrongdoings as welfare fraud, growing marijuana or illegal sub-letting.

A manual for the Brigade dictates:

Sometimes welfare recipients wish to make an audio or video recording of the visit. This recording could be against the will of team members, and could lead to publication that is against their will. This can have far-reaching personal consequences for the team members. This is not tolerable, and therefore we prescribe the following:

1) If a customer indicates that he wishes to record the visit, or if he is already in the process of recording the visit, the team members will indicate clearly that they do not give permission for the recording, and will stop the visit.

2) The team members will explain to the customer that their behaviour will be interpreted as refusing to cooperate in determining the right to welfare benefits (article 17 WWB), and that this can have consequences for their right to welfare. When the customer publishes his recordings, he will be reported to the police.

For the record, in the Netherlands you do generally not need permission to film someone, and so-called portrait rights (the limited right to object to publication of your portrait) are part of civil law, not of criminal law.

Tokmetzis adds that since the Brigade members are doing their work in public, they should expect and accept public scrutiny.

(Photo by FaceMePLS, some rights reserved)

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November 17, 2010

Copyright collection agency to charge for embedding after all

Filed under: Film,General,Music,Online by Orangemaster @ 7:57 pm
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In December 2009, after a wave of criticism from the media and beyond, Dutch copyright collection agency Buma/Stemra (B/S) decided to back off on its plans to make people pay for embedded music streams. However, today they announced that they will go ahead with their plans after all. According to B/S logic, embedding music is another form of ‘rebroadcasting’, which require licences. Buma/Stemra will start charging for music streams and video streams like YouTube, all of which will be confirmed soon. According to Tweakers, last year the projected rates for embedding videos with music were lower than embedding music streams — why, nobody knows.

They also say they won’t bug private persons, just companies. We’ll see.

In other copright news, a court in The Hague has ruled that downloading copyrighted material without permission of the rights holder is permitted as long as it’s a copy for home use. There was some doubt as to how copyright law should be interpreted on this issue, but not anymore. Read more about it in Dutch from our friendly neighbourhood Internet legal expert, Arnoud Engelfriet.

(Link: tweakers)

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