posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 7th Oct 2009 20:15 UTC
IconHere on OSNews I've already talked about various copyright related issues here in The Netherlands - obviously because I'm Dutch and live there. As a small nation, the copyright issues we face here serve as nice, comprehensible discussion starters that we can all grok. Well, we've got another one. Our own RIAA equivalent has caused quite the stir by announcing that they will start charging bloggers and social website users for embedding YouTube videos with copyrighted content. Say what?

The Buma/Stemra is a Dutch copyright collective. Last week, they introduced a plan (called "Fair Play Music"...) in which they will start charging people for embedding YouTube (or similar) videos on their blogs or social networking website profile pages. For embedding 6 YouTube videos, you will have to pay 130 EUR per year - for 30 videos, it will add up to 650 EUR per year. The tariffs will become effective coming January 1.

Embedding music videos is a very popular activity on blogs and social networking websites. In The Netherlands, the biggest social network (by far) is Hyves, currently hosting almost 10 million profiles (on a population of 16 million). Every major Dutch artist, celebrity, politician, company, political party, or whatever has a profile. Most of those are filled with people posting their favourite music videos or other copyrighted content in the form of YouTube videos. Buma/Stemra has not yet made any deals with sites like YouTube and Hyves, but they do claim to be in talks with them - Hyves denies these talks are taking place.

The tariffs apply to more than just music videos. If you made a photo slideshow of your latest vacation in Chersonissos (the vacation spot for annoying Dutch teengers, avoid at all costs) and put some Tiesto as the background music, you'll have to pay too. A video of grandpa playing a song for you on the piano? Pay up. And so on.

Buma/Stemra plans to detect and enforce all this using the Teezir webcralwer. Teezir announced the Buma/Stemra webcrawler on their website, and it is a fully automated solution looking for embedded audio content on the websites of Dutch companies. If you want to block this webcraler, Google is your friend.

In what I personally find exceptionally stunning, Dutch politicians are actually stumbling over each other to express their concern over this development. Three political parties in The Netherlands, the CDA (Christian democrats, currently in the government), SP (the socialists, largest opposition party) and GroenLinks (the green party) have all stated that they want the government to stop Buma/Stemra, because their plans hurt both individuals as well as artists. "This plan will seriously hinder artists in promoting their music via the web," stated Mariko Peters, member of the Lower House for GroenLinks.

The sadness of it all is that despite the ridiculous nature of the plans, Buma/Stemra has the law and jurisprudence on its side. Dutch copyright law is very old; the original variant was enacted in 1817, but it was revised completely in 1912. The variant from 1912 is the one still in effect today, and despite being revised over time, it's still, at its core, the law from 1912. As you can imagine, this law says nothing about embedding or YouTube.

If we shift our attention towards jurisprudence, the picture becomes clearer. While linking to articles, as well as quoting them, is almost always allowed (except in cases like linking to child pornography or bomb making), embedding pictures without explicit consent is not. There is no jurisprudence on video material, but the similarities with pictures is obvious.

Still, that does not negate the fact that Buma/Stemra is being very blunt and inefficient about it. Now they have the entire political establishment on their bum, as the news of their plans, as well as the responses, have been widely covered in newspapers, blogs, and television stations. There's almost a universal sense of disgust. Do you really want to charge 130 EUR for a 12 year old kid embedding a few videos on his Hyves page? Is that acceptable?

What really tickled my sense of irony today was the rather interesting placement of news articles in my newspaper of choice this morning. The Algemeen Dagblad had an article covering almost two pages on the Buma/Stemra thing this morning, page 2 and 3. The rest of page 3 was dedicated to another article.

That other article's header read: "Ten percent increase in cinema visits".

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