Party's over for the Dutch: pirated downloads now prohibited in the Netherlands

The country had allowed its residents to engage in this practice

The Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice has banned downloading pirated content, finally making this illegal for people in the Netherlands.

The government's decision follows a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Thursday.

Until now, people in the Netherlands had been allowed to download copyrighted material from illegal sources and to make private copies of content they own.

To compensate for copyright owners' resulting lost revenue, the country placed levy on sales of devices like smartphones, MP3 players and tablets.

However, in its judgement, the CJEU said that national legislation that makes no distinction between private copies made from lawful sources and those made from counterfeited or pirated sources cannot be tolerated.

If member states were free to adopt legislation that permits reproductions from an unlawful source, that would be clearly detrimental to the proper functioning of the internal market, the court said in its verdict.

"This means that, as of today, downloading from an illegal source is no longer permitted," said Ministry of Security and Justice spokesman Wiebe Alkema. The ban is based on civil law, which means that Dutch law enforcement authorities won't be in charge of enforcing it, he added.

It is up to organizations like the Dutch antipiracy foundation Brein to tackle downloads from illegal sources by filing civil lawsuits, said Alkema.

Brein, which has stated before that it wouldn't target individual downloaders, said in a news release on Thursday that it will go after sites and services that facilitate access to illegal material.

The Dutch government will now have to modify the private copying levy rules, Alkema said.

SONT, the organization that sets the levies and represents copyright holders and device makers and resellers, was asked by the Ministry to determine which levies are still appropriate, given the verdict, Alkema said. The Ministry expects the response by the summer.

As of January 2013, smartphones, tablets and MP3 players in the Netherlands were subject to a copyright levy of up to €5 (US$7). Importers and manufacturers of such devices are required to pay that private copying levy to the Dutch Home Copying Foundation (Stichting de Thuiskopie), which is also a member of SONT.

However, some manufacturers and importers sued the Home Copying Foundation alleging that the levies should be smaller because the impact of illegal downloads shouldn't be considered, the CJEU said.

The case got to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands which decided to seek a preliminary ruling from the CJEU.

The Dutch Home Copying Foundation said in a news release that it is confident that the ruling will not affect the proceeds coming from the levy.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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