Dutch film distributor to fine illegal downloaders

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Pirate flag (Photo: Malene Thyssen/Wikimedia Commons). (Pirate flag (Photo: Malene Thyssen/Wikimedia Commons))

Film distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW) plans to soon start fining Dutch pirates, owner Willem Pruijssers said to RTL Z. Starting in October, the distributor plans to track Dutch illegally downloading or streaming its products. Those caught doing so will be sent a "settlement letter" with a fine amount, which they can either pay or fight in court, according to the broadcaster.

Dutch Filmworks will use German company Excipon to collect the Dutch IP-addresses of illegal downloaders. The company will then approach the ISPs to find out who the IP-addresses belong to, and these customers will be fined. How high the fines will be is not yet clear. Pruijssers told RTL that it will involve a few hundred euros.

But first Dutch Filmworks needs to get permission from the Dutch Personal Data Authority to collect these IP addresses. The distributor already submitted an application to combat "the unlawful dissemination of copyright protected works" by monitoring BitTorrent users, according to torrentfreak.com.

"DFW intends to collect data from people who exchange files over the internet through BitTorrent networks", the application reads. "The data processing consists of capturing proof of exchange of files via IP addresses for the purpose of researching involvement of these users in the distribution or reproduction fo copyrighted works."

A spokesperson for the Personal Data Authority told RTL Z that people had until last week Friday to object to this request. The authority is now considering it. 

Another obstacle is that the ISPs need to be convinced to hand over their clients' information. Ziggo, XS4ALL and KPN told RTL that they will only do so if a court demands it. 

IT lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet believes there is a good chance that a court will order the ISPs to hand over information of illegal downloaders. "If Dutch Filmworks can show that a client of a provider illegally downloaded a film, then the provider is obligated to hand over the information, according to a previous ruling by the Supreme court", he said to the broadcaster. 

Pruijssers is positive that this will succeed. For too long piracy was tolerated in the Netherlands, and enough is enough, he said to the broadcaster. "People simply had license to steal from us", he said. "Our goal is to reduce the number of thefts to a minimum. We're not talking about a few thousand illegal copies. This involves millions of illegal downloads per year, that causes damage to us. In the media you always hear about internet freedom and that you should be able to download, but if you steal a DVD from a store, you will be punished."

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