Internet service providers that allow access to file-sharing sites such as Pirate Bay will have to brace themselves for a crack down from the Netherlands government. According to Wiebe Alkema, the spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, the law, which was announced last April, is set to be amended but it will not criminalise the downloaders, as is the case in most European countries.
Earlier this month, a Dutch court had ordered ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL to block access to Pirate Bay by February 1 because it allows copyright infringement of music and film content. Both Ziggo, owned by private equity groups Cinven CINV.UL and Warburg Pincus WP.UL, and XS4ALL, owned by telecoms firm KPN (KPN.AS), risk a penalty of 10,000 euros a day, up to a maximum of 250,000 euros, if they do not obey the court order.
The penalty is payable to Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, which represents major entertainment companies and which brought the case against XS4ALL and Ziggo. BREIN has asked other providers including UPC, KPN and T-Mobile to block access to Pirate Bay, and they could eventually face court action too.
According to Ziggo, Dutch research firm Telecompaper, more than 85 percent of the market is being controlled by UPC, KPN, XS4ALL and T-Mobile. UPC is owned by Liberty Global Inc. LBTY.O, while Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE) operates under the T-Mobile brand. Ziggo said it would block the Pirate Bay website, but will appeal against the decision.
Recently many nations have started clamping down on online piracy. The United States is seeking the extradition of Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload.com, from New Zealand, saying that he was the ringleader of a group that netted $175 million since 2005 by copying and distributing music, movies and other copyrighted content without authorisation.
A report released by Dutch consultancy Considerati says that about 40 percent of Dutch internet users regularly download unlicensed content, compared with a European average of 27 percent. Considerati estimates downloading of unlicensed content costs the Dutch music industry up to 100 million euros a year.
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