Dutch Film industry sues the State; Copyright is outdated

It was banned a year ago, but Dutch people still continue to illegally download films and TV series like nothing happened. Serves the industry right, say internet and film experts. Absolute nonsense, say film producers.

The two camps have become diametrically opposed now that Dutch film industry copyrights organisation Sekam is holding the State responsible for losses over the past ten years. “It’s been calculated that illegal downloading deprives the film industry of 78 million Euros every year,” says Bas Le Poole, a lawyer of Sekam. “We want that money back. The authorities have been turning a blind eye for far too long.”

But this copyright that the film lobbyists like to throw around is an outdated concept, says internet expert Danny Mekić. “It’s a construct from a time when painters, poets and musicians weren’t paid for their work at all. In the modern age, it completely misses the mark.”

He thinks it’s incomprehensible that film producers don’t make their products available to the public much faster and in more ways. “The range of available films and series on platforms like Netflix is terribly limited. And paid video on demand services like Pathé Thuis have more drawbacks than advantages too. I once tried to legally rent The Matrix; that turned out to be more expensive than actually buying it on DVD in a webshop, including shipping. That means something is very wrong.”

Little wonder that consumers are drawn towards free alternatives like Popcorn Time, agrees film expert Jochem Geerdink, who is also a member of the jury for the Dutch Film Critics’ Award. “The music industry solved that problem perfectly with innovations like Spotify, which nearly every artist and song immediately appears on. Hardly anybody still downloads music illegally. Why don’t we have something like that for films too? The film industry missed the boat.”

Geerdink thinks it’s time for film producers and distributors to get together and belatedly create something like that now. “I’m sure the Dutch would be prepared to pay for a film subscription if the range on offer were more complete.”

Those arguments infuriate San Fu Maltha, film producer and founder of the recently bankrupted distribution company A-Film. “We are being robbed. For years now the government has been not only tolerating but even instigating and encouraging this. I can’t force a company like Netflix to include more films. Consumers who commit a crime need to be punished. And if the State refuses to compensate the industry for it, I’m going to sue them for a hefty sum myself.”

Sekam lawyer Le Poole doesn’t want to take it that far. He’d rather just work on raising consumer awareness and taking on illegal suppliers for now.

Tim Kuik from copyrights protection organisation Brein understands why consumers complain about the limited range of legally available films. “It would be ideal if films became available to us at the same time as they do in America. We need to give consumers what they want, in the way that they want it.”

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