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.
Tags: copyright, law
Last week, Dutch news site nu.nl wrote about a case from 2014 where the Public Prosecutor had confiscated 712 bitcoins as a result of a man having stolen electricity to mine said Bitcoins. The problem was that the judge could not determine whether the Bitcoins were mined using the stolen electricity or not.
The authorities first found 127 Bitcoins and later uncovered 585 more, for a total of 712 bitcoins. The 585 bitcoins were seized then sold, as it would have taken more effort to keep them then to sell them, a perfectly legal action according to Dutch lawyer and blogger Arnoud Engelfriet. Then again, this point is being discussed at length: why not keep the Bitcoin wallet containing the information and keys to be able to maintain the wallet?
The condition for selling seized things is that ‘their value can be determined easily’, which is not the case with Bitcoins. Selling the 127 was fine, but not the 585 found later because it could not be proven that they were mined using stolen electricity. The value of the 585 Bitcoins had to be paid to the owner, but today they would have been worth about 3.3 million euro, meaning the man is being ‘cheated’ out of a hell of a lot of money. The fact that he is a petty thief doesn’t seem to outweigh the feeling that a lot of money was lost by wrongly selling the Bitcoins.
According to jurisprudence, the value must be determined at the moment of confiscation, February 2014. The Bitcoins to be returned were then valued at the rate one week after their confiscation, €268,46 per Bitcoin, for an amount of €157.179,55.
Should we not care simply because the man was a thief in the first place? Should we be worried that in the future, courts will be slow to determine the value of Bitcoins in cases and have this sort of problem occur again? Shouldn’t we be even more worried about how dangerous it is to steal electricity?
Possibly the weirdest thing we have wrote about Bitcoins the last couple of years is the Dutchman who had a Bitcoin wallet injected into his hand, and a few other things as well.
(Links: blog.iusmentis.com, waarmaarraar.nl, nu.nl, Photo by BTC Keychain, some rights reserved)
Tags: Bitcoin, electricity, theft
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Bitcoin is a currency and that trading in it is exempt of VAT.
Dutch Bitcoin exchange Litebit.eu had to pay 21% VAT over their margins, but can now ask for a tax refund, according to CEO Rogier Fischer in Business Insider UK.
The ruling (PDF to press release) follows a year in which banks worldwide have been contemplating the use of blockchain, the electronic public ledger used for all Bitcoin transactions.
In 2013 Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem ruled that Bitcoin was not electronic money. Arnoud Engelfriet wrote last week that the European ruling brings Bitcoin “a step closer to being money”.
Dutch people still need to pay capital tax over the Bitcoin they own, because capital tax is calculated over the value of all possessions, not just over that of money.
(Photo by BTC Keychain, some rights reserved)
Tags: Bitcoin, currency, money, taxes, VAT
The business court of The Hague has determined that Dutch Rail can abolish paper train tickets even though the law says a traveller has a right to an objective proof of the right to travel.
The court felt that the new electronic travel card system (OV Chipkaart) suffices because there are five places where you can confirm you have the right to travel. Arnoud Engelfriet lists them all:
- The display of the electronic gate at the time of checking in.
- The display of the vending machine.
- A paper print-out at the service desk.
- A transaction data listing on the Dutch Rail website.
- The display of the train conductor’s travel card reader.
Engelfriet and his commenters point out that there are numerous problems with this verdict.
- The electronic display only shows that you’ve checked in for a very short time, especially if somebody checks in a fraction of a second later (this happens a lot during rush hour).
- If you are in a rush, you are not going to stand in line at the vending machine or service desk.
- The Internet listings are only updated after a significant delay.
- Train conductors are “masters at being impossible to find”, according to Rikus Spithorst of travellers association ‘Voor Beter OV’ (‘for better public transport’). (Doesn’t that make train conductors hobbits?)
Basically this means that you either show up five minutes early for your daily commute to double check you are actually checked in or you pay a tax in the form of fines every time you fail to check in for whatever reason.
What bothers me is that in the case of a conflict between a traveller and Dutch Rail (and only the OV Chipkaart in place) travellers now have to rely completely on the antagonistic party to provide them with the proof that they have in fact travelled legally. Travelling without a valid ticket is a criminal offence, so why would the state make rules that make it practically impossible for a suspect to defend their innocence?
Tags: courts, crime, Dutch Rail, OV Chipkaart, privacy
Article 13 of the Dutch constitution declares a secrecy of correspondence, meaning the government and others are not allowed to snoop on your mail.
However, there is an unfortunate loophole: the law specifically talks about paper mail. E-mail was never included and therefore exists in a legal limbo.
According to Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet, the council of ministers of the Netherlands has now proposed a change in the constitution that will not actually name e-mail, but which will make the phrasing of Article 13 more generic. A change in the constitution requires two consecutive parliaments to vote for that change, the idea being that the change can be made an issue in the elections.
Not that it matters much, as the Dutch constitution, which is now 200 years old, is more of a guideline than law. Judges are not allowed to ignore laws based on their constitutionality. The constitution may be said to have a normative function, for example, it could show courts how to interpret a vague law, but a 2009 study by the national government claims that this normative function is eroding (PDF). Instead a societal function is emerging, as the constitution aims to hold up a mirror to the citizens of the kingdom and to show us what our shared values are.
See also: an English translation of Article 13.
(Photo of the constitution of 1814 by Grondwetfestival.nl, used with permission)
Tags: constitution, e-mail, laws, privacy
By not informing its users about what data it collects and by not asking for permission, Google is breaking the Dutch data protection act, privacy watchdog CBP said in a press release last Thursday.
The investigation shows that Google combines personal data relating to Internet users that the company obtains from different services. Google does this, amongst others, for the purposes of displaying personalised ads and to personalise services such as YouTube and Search. Some of these data are of a sensitive nature, such as payment information, location data and information on surfing behaviour across multiple websites. Data about search queries, location data and video’s watched can be combined, while the different services serve entirely different purposes from the point of view of users.
Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet points to a peculiarity of Dutch privacy law that says you have to ask users for informed consent. It’s not enough to say ‘this is how we deal with your privacy’, users should be able to understand what is going to happen and say ‘no’ before it happens. Also, Google shouldn’t say what they could do with your data, they are obliged to say what they will do with your data.
Apparently Google tried to defend themselves by claiming they do not collect personal data, they merely create profiles. CBP quotes Google’s own CEO Eric Schmidt back at them who once stated: “We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” Google’s chief Internet evangelist (and Internet co-inventor) Vint Cerf said two weeks ago at a privacy and security workshop of (of all people) the US Trade Commission (40 minutes into the video): “I would not go as far as to simply, baldy assert that privacy is dead. […] But let me tell you that it would be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy. I want you to think for just a minute about the fact that privacy may actually be an anomaly.”
Engelfriet concludes: “Google of course believes the criticism is invalid and uses a barrage of marketing language […] to keep dancing around the issue. And that is all that will happen. I don’t see what kind of effective measures CBP can take to make Google fundamentally change its ways—which is a pity, because this is one of the most substantial reports CBP has issued in a long time.”
(Link: the Register; photo by Jeff Schuler, some rights reserved)
Tags: Eric Schmidt, Google, privacy, Vint Cerf
Dutch people who accept payments in the new Internet currency Bitcoin will have to pay income tax on the funds they receive. Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem confirmed this two weeks ago after parliament had asked questions about Bitcoin, Nu.nl reports.
According to the minister, the “alternative virtual currency” cannot be seen as “electronic money” because it fails the definition set by the Dutch law. Dijsselbloem also reported that approximately 2% of all Bitcoin users in the world are Dutch, and that these Dutch owners possess about 20 million euro worth of Bitcoin. At the time of writing 1 Bitcoin represents about 75 euro.
Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet helpfully explains that the Wet financieel toezicht (the law on financial control) defines electronic money as a monetary value that
- Is stored electronically.
- Represents a claim on the person or organisation who issues it.
- Is issued in exchange for money to make payments with.
- Can be used to pay both the issuer and others.
Since Bitcoins do not represent a claim on the issuer and they aren’t necessarily issued in exchange for money, they aren’t electronic money. The reason you still have to pay income tax is simply because the law on income tax doesn’t mention money. Any form of income, whether that income consists of money, goods or Bitcoins, is susceptible to being taxed. The problems start when you have to pay these taxes though, because the Dutch tax office only accepts money. Your revenue will somehow have to be valued in euro before you can calculate how much you have to pay.
I can well imagine that the belastingdienst (tax office) isn’t going to chase down small time Bitcoin users just yet. I remember the first time I became self-employed and asked the belastingdienst for a VAT number. The man on the other end of the line laughed at me and said they could not be bothered to issue me my number for the couple of hundred guilders I expected to make that year.
Another complicating matter according to Engelfriet is that Bitcoins aren’t financial products either. That would mean you will have to pay VAT (‘btw’) over the Bitcoins you receive, which would make trading in Bitcoins less attractive for the Dutch.
Tags: Bitcoin, cryptography, income tax, money, taxes
A homeowners’ association in Rotterdam recently wanted a member to remove a satellite dish from his flat. Dishes are considered an eyesore and they decrease the enjoyment other owners have of their flats.
However, it’s not that simple, Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet writes. Freedom of speech also includes the ability to receive information, which is why judges have been reluctant to outlaw satellite dishes in the past.
The homeowners’ association won its lawsuit last July because the homeowner had other ways to watch his favourite TV channels, such as on the Internet. A fundamental right does not always trump a homeowners’ association’s articles.
Engelfriet omitted to mention that the satellite TV watching flat owner was of Turkish descent. When Dutch people see a street full of satellite dishes, they generally assume that the neighbourhood is popular with immigrants. Homeowners fear that a neighbourhood’s property value will drop if the neighbourhood is perceived to be too ‘black’.
In this case, the plaintiff had also made it clear that it wasn’t he who needed access to the satellite channels, but his wife.
The plaintiff was ordered to pay all his opponent’s legal costs, which the judge determined to be 200 euro.
(Photo by Kai Schreiber, some rights reserved)
Tags: liveable cities, racism, satellites, Turkey
Why would you want to ask a court whether an Apple iPad is a phone or a general computer? Well, if computers given as a Christmas bonus are considered income and phones are not, you might have an incentive, especially if the back taxes amount to 323,687 euro.
Broadcaster RTL Nederland gave 664 of its employees an iPad in 2010, including a Vodafone 3G subscription. The law says that something supplied by one’s employer does not count as income if this something is intended “to prevent costs, expenses or depreciations needed for a correct execution of one’s employment”, Arnoud Engelfriet reports.
The law also prescribes categories of devices that are applicable, including “phones, Internet and such communication devices, but not computers, nor similar devices or peripherals”.
RTL Nederland sued the Dutch tax office and the question before the court became whether these iPads were mainly computers or mainly communication devices. The court ruled on 30 November that “considering the format of the iPad (the version the claimants provided has a 9.7 inch screen diagonal) verbal communication should not be seen as the central function of the iPad.”
RTL Nederland will appeal the decision. “We are a media company,” a spokesperson told Webwereld. “We work with those iPads, they are part of our daily business.”
Tags: communication, companies, employees, employers, income tax, iPad, law, RTL, RTL Nederland, tax service, taxes, telephony