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Dutch court says ISPs not obliged to forward on anti-piracy warning letters

By | Published on Friday 14 October 2022


An appeals court in the Netherlands has confirmed that Dutch internet service provider Ziggo is not obligated to forward warning letters to suspected copyright infringers. Instead copyright owners will have to begin legal proceedings against the suspected infringers and seek to identify those people through the courts.

Ziggo has been particularly proactive over the years in opposing anti-piracy measures proposed by the music and movie industries which involve its active participation. It spent many years fighting web-blocks – ie injunctions that force it to block access to certain piracy sites – albeit ultimately unsuccessfully.

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN also wanted Ziggo to send warning letters to suspected infringers among its customer base.

The passing on of such warning letters by ISPs is seen by the copyright industries as one of the mildest forms of anti-piracy activity. The copyright owners never learn the actual identities of the suspected infringers – who they can only identify by the IP address they use – and no immediate sanctions are being demanded against the infringers.

However, Ziggo refused to pass on any copyright notices, raising privacy concerns with the anti-piracy approach. BREIN then took the matter to the courts, seeking to force the ISP to send on its warning letters. But earlier this year the Utrecht Court concluded that there was no legal basis under Dutch law for ordering that the letters be forwarded on and – according to Torrentfreak – an appeals court has now confirmed that ruling.

A copyright owner could still sue the suspected infringer, of course, which would initially mean filing legal proceedings to force Ziggo to reveal the identity of that person. However, BREIN argues, it would prefer the less confrontational approach of sending warning letters, at least in first instance.

Responding to the latest court decision on this matter, BREIN Director Tim Kuik said: “Warning subscribers without taking a case to court immediately is mild and should be possible. Ziggo now ensures that its infringing customers will be confronted with legal claims right away. That’s not our choice, but if we have to, we’ll do it”.