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Some Dutch IT Items

The Dutch copyright enforcers on music and video, Buma/Stemra, launched a plan last week to actually start collecting rights for proprietary content embedded in blogs and other personal websites. The version that reached the public press was that you would have to pay 130 EUR for up to six copyrighted items displayed on a .. something. That wasn’t really made clear in the press, and newspapers and then politics jumped all over it.

Now that plan has been retracted; apparently several parties in the Tweede Kamer ended up doubting the legal basis for such a licensing scheme, not to mention the social unrest caused by kids linking stuff on their social network pages (I hear Hyves is the most popular one in .nl, and its name seems to be used synonymously with “social network site” by now), and then the parents get a bill for the embedding. Well, the parents get the bill if they are still legally responsible for the child — I’m not sure what the age limits are there.

Just a list of my initial questions:

  • Why is it onerous on the parents to be responsible for the behavior of their children in one aspect of the law, and not in others (e.g. vandalism)?
  • If there is a legal doubt about the basis of enforcing rights on embedded content, what exactly is that based on? In what way does embedding differ from other forms of hosting? Does this not affect the legal basis of all rights enforcement on online content?
  • Are these political parties up there only for their crowd-pleasing skills? (And I voted for ‘em, too).

Copyright is important. It’s part of our social contract, although copyright in itself is an artificial construct of society. I won’t claim that the current crop of copyright laws is the best of all possible, but it is part of our (in the context of this blog entry, Dutch) society. And working with (and protecting) that social contract is part of everyone’s duty to society. So I’ll have a little sympathy for Buma today.

And in other news, Stichting Brein (whose amazingly annoying rightsholders information film at the beginning of every DVD I own is sufficient reason for me to rip the damn thing so I can just watch the movie and who were responsible for an amazingly misdirected bit of FUD against all forms of downloaded content a few years back — find the NLUUG and others’ response to the FUD (Dutch) as well as some useful background information on home copying (Dutch) on Arnoud Engelfriet’s blog) has gotten tied up in did-too-did-not court cases against the Pirate Bay. Brein’s mandate is protecting the rights of non-Free content. I can’t really fault them for doing that, it is something that is sometimes needed under copyright law. I can’t bring myself to have any sympathy for them, though.

[[ Thought experiment: Supposing that embedding doesn't require normal handling of the rights on copyrighted works, how does a tracker -- which doesn't even embed, but only points to other, possibly embedded, copies -- differ from the exemption now given? ]] [[ Addendum: Ars Technica has a nice overview of resistance to technology from rightsholders. ]]

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One Response to “Some Dutch IT Items”

  1. Thomas Zander Says:

    Just reading your blog and not any background of this story makes me wonder if the decision in the Dutch politics is based not on a strict interpretation of the law (which technical people and lawyers would do) but more on the basis that laws should be fair and strive for balance. As a viewpoint that a (higher) judge would have.

    This naturally should lead to conclusion just like common law follows prior decisions by judges. The question on my mind is how to make this clear to the politicians.

    Maybe call them on this decision whenever something similar comes up?