On 10 April 2014 the European Court of Justice held that making personal copies of copyright-protected material from ‘illegal sources’ is not allowed. This reportedly detracts from the ‘proper functioning of the internal market’. What does this mean?

To put it briefly, until this decision the copying of copyrighted material (by downloading, for instance) ‘for one’s own practice or study purposes or for personal use’ was permitted in the Netherlands, even if the source was illegal. The Court held that this is no longer permitted because it is at the expense of the strict protection of copyrights. This means that the toleration (in the Netherlands) of illegal forms of distribution of copied or forged works is a thing of the past. Downloaders themselves (private persons) do not risk criminal prosecution, but civil-law measures can be taken, especially against those who offer illegal material on a commercial scale and who infringe copyrights.

The decision also means that reproducing copyright-protected material from illegal sources does not fall under the ‘private copying levy’, which will have an effect on the height of the levy added to the price of devices and media which can be used to make private copies. The government will have to clarify precisely what consequences this will have. According to the Court, the amount of the compensation owed for the production of copies of a protected work for personal use may not, in any event, take into account illegal reproductions. This means that the private copying levies may decrease.

By Joost Becker