BREIN wins, democracy loses
On January 11th a judge ruled that Dutch internet service providers (ISPs) XS4ALL and Ziggo must censor their customers’ Internet traffic. Today it has been made public that the remaining Dutch ISPs, despite their recent joy over the new net neutrality bill, are also forced to censor the connections of their subscribers. Just before noon the verdict in the court case between BREIN and Pirate Party Netherlands was delivered by fax.
Ex parte injunction not overturned
A judge decided that the ex-parte injunction against the Pirate Party was lawful, and has thereby removed the right to be heard from the IPR jurisdiction. The objections of the Pirate Party to this state of affairs has been found baseless by the judge. This goes to show that much is wrong with this branch of ‘rights’: the interests of a small group of monopolists are held to a higher regard than the fundamental necessity for freedom of information and opinion. This also gives the opportunity to convict anyone without trial.
Specific Proxy stays censored
As mentioned, the ex parte injunction stands. That means our specific proxy hosted on tpb.piratenpartij.nl has to stay censored. We are also prohibited from placing any lists or links pointing to other ways of circumventing the block.
Generic proxy has to be censored
This is a slap in the face for the free internet and a novel judical decision. The judge decided to give the Netherlands another nudge on the sliding scale of censorship. More and more bits of the internet will have to be censored because they might be used to get access to ‘ infringing’ sites, until eventually most of the internet will be unreachable.
In point ii) of the verdict the Pirate Party is ordered ‘to cease & desist presenting direct links to other TPB dedicated proxies.’
This prohibition seems to cover the whole *.piratenpartij.nl domain. We have to comb every inch of our site, including our blog, to make sure we have no links to sites such as geenstijl.nl (Dutch news weblog) or rechtspraak.nl (Dutch law weblog). If we would want to try and risk €10.000, we could try and see what exactly is meant by ‘direct links’.
Point v) bids the Pirate Party ‘to cease & desist placing lists with internet addresses which can be used to circumvent the block of TPB, on her subdomain tpb.piratenpartij.nl.’
Apparently it is now forbidden to direct people to the Tor project’s download page, or even the Opera browser’s page.
Direct links to reverse proxies appear to be forbidden everywhere for the Pirate Party now, and on top of that, tpb.piratenpartij.nl is no longer allowed to hold any information, or even links to information, on how to circumvent the block. With copyright at its side, BREIN has been successful in literally censoring a political party from giving information on how to circumvent censorship itself.
In addition, point vi) makes clear that BREIN has a direct financial interest in the severity of the fines. The fines are not paid to the government, but instead disappear into BREIN’s war chest.
And what now?
The Dutch Pirate Party is studying the verdict more closely and will decide on its next steps later. For now we have to comply with the judge, albeit under loud protest. Today’s verdicts have shown that the Pirate Party is desperately needed to turn the tide on the political landscape. A judge merely interprets the law, and if a verdict is unjust, that is because the law is unjust. The jubilant stories over the won net neutrality law goes to show that Dutch politicians do not understand where the real problems are. As long as lobbyists can censor political parties with the copyright law at their side, the copyright law needs an urgent update. As it stands, only the Pirate Party has the wisdom and courage to make that point in The Hague. 12 september’s elections will be very important!
If you would like to read the complete verdict yourself you can download it here: