Techdirt has a couple of pieces about digital piracy today.

First, a Dutch court has ruled that it is actually advantageous to right-holders (at least in the Netherlands) that unauthorized download sites exist, because the downloads from those sites help to pump up the amount of the Dutch private copying levy.

The Court of Appeal stated that the private copying exemption in the Dutch Copyright Act does not differentiate between copies made from legal or illegal sources. With reference to statements made by the Minister of Justice, the Court argued that the legitimate interest of the right holders is more adequately protected in a regime that allows downloading from illegal sources. In view of the Dutch government’s statements, such a levy system better ensures that compensation is due to right holders for the use of their work.

Of course, we don’t have a private copying levy here, but it’s still interesting to see a court state that illicit downloading sites can “more adequately protect” the interest of the rights holders in any circumstance.

And second is an opinion post by Tim Geigner responding to Colleen Doran’s blog post that we covered a few days ago. He responds to her assertions point by point, suggesting that perhaps the failure to engage fans might be on her end.

Oh, and that last part, about there being no connection between fans and creators? That’s YOUR job, not the fans’. You have to make that connection. We’re not mindless moths, fluttering about the heat of your light, desperate to slam our bodies against the fixture. You connect with us, since you’re doing the selling, not the other way around….

He compares Colleen’s case to that of Steve Lieber, who managed to pump up sales of one of his graphic novels considerably by going to the site where it had been pirated and talking with the fans there.

It’s hard to blame authors for being touchy about illegal sharing of their works, but digital piracy is in all probability going to be with us forever. It’s a fact of life of the new digital economy, and will never go away no matter how loudly people complain about it. If you do somehow manage to kill one site, two more will spring up to take its place—probably overseas, where you can’t get at them. It’s a shame, but it just seems to be the way things are going to work from here on out. It would be a lot more constructive if authors would get over being aggravated by it and get down to figuring out how to deal with it.


  1. Even assuming content creators earn a $1 from the fund for every $1 in lost sales, the scheme the Dutch court advocates is far from fair. Someone who never downloads pirated music but buys CDs or DVDs (for backup) and uses an iPod or iPhone to listen to podcasts is paying for the pirated music and movies that others download.

    This Dutch “solution” is all too typically European (and Canadian). It shows little common sense. Imagine a fund that fully compensates the victims of a burglary for their loss and a court ruling that, as a consequence, the laws against burglary need not be enforced. Is that true, or is it neglecting some important facts.

    1. Criminals are getting rich and not being punished.

    2. Taxpayers are getting stuck with the costs of crime.

    3. The beliefs of those who think burglary/piracy is wrong, whatever the consequences, are being ignored.

    4. No one really knows who’s copyrighted material is being stolen or how much. Given how bureaucracies work, the wealthier copyright holders are likely to be overcompensated and the others undercompensated.

    And while a burglary compensation scheme might seem to compensate the victims, it doesn’t really. Either the system is loose, taking the alleged victims at that word and inviting fraud. Or the system is hard-nosed, requiring that those burgled document in detail what was taken, imposing a heavy labor on the average, law-abiding citizen.

    Finally, policies always have consequences. When I visited Amsterdam years ago, the city was quite proud of its liberal tolerance of drug sales and use. For those who stayed in five-star hotels, the policy may not have seemed that bad. For those who stayed in crowded hostels like me, it was awful. Theft in the hostel had gotten so bad, the staff was insisting that valuables needed to be locked up. But the thieves simply robbed the locked cabinet, wrecking many young travelers’ vacations. And it isn’t hard to figure out why that particular hostel, out of all those in Europe, had the problem. Those doing drugs had an expensive habit but, being stoned most of the time, weren’t likely to get jobs. Rampant theft was the result.

    In much the same fashion, a slovenly attitude toward the law in one area is likely to wash over into other areas. This court in the Netherlands isn’t really being tolerant. It’s just being sloppy and short-sighted.

  2. A great article Chris, reminding people about how the market and capitalism works and how to make it work for you. The old business model where paper was the only thing in town seems to have caused authors to enter a long slumber where they really sat back. Apart from the ones who went on signing and interview trips, they expected the whole process to operate without them.
    Piracy is a horrible thing but it shouldn’t be allowed to win, and there are many many things authors can do to minimise it’s effect and increase their own sales.

    Tim’s article was totally wonderful to behold. He really gets it. And the comments after his article are great too 🙂

    As an aside I really do find the regular slurs on European countries to be rather tiresome from people who obviously don’t know any better. Dutch ways are not typically European, they are typically Dutch. Europe is a very varied region with a wide range of cultures and attitudes to all kinds of life’s peccadilloes.

  3. Many years ago my local newspaper published a glowing report on our newly-appointed police theft recovery squad. The story explained that in six months they had recovered nearly twenty thousand dollars’ worth of stolen property, and the accompanying photograph showed ten smiling faces.

    Since the average wage at that time was about twenty thousand dollars a year, it didn’t take long to work out that the cost to the taxpayer of recovering twenty thousand dollars’ worth of stolen goods was at least three times that and probably more. Sometimes having a flexible attitude to morality pays off.