Belgian consumer group will appeal in copy protection case

By EDRi · June 2, 2004

On 27 May 2004 the Belgian court of Brussels rejected the complaint made by the consumer organisation Test-Achats (Test Aankoop) against four record companies in Belgium (EMI, Sony, Universal and BMG) about their use of technical copy protection measures. Test-Achats collected 200 complaints from individual members and demanded that the companies would stop using technical measures on their CDs and remove all copy-controlled CDs on the market. The judge ruled that copyright legislation does allow for a private copy, but does not grant a ‘right’. According to an article in the national newspaper ‘De Morgen’, Test-Achats immediately announced an appeal.

Spokesperson Ivo Mechels said to De Morgen that the judge did not provide sufficient argumentation in his verdict. He complained the verdict only comprised half an A4 paper. “The judge seems to have based his ruling on the content table of the copyright law. Making a private copy is classified under the exceptions, so according to his particular logic, it is an exception. There was no debate about the meaning and purpose of the legislation. When we presented the European Copyright Directive from 2001, which allows for private copies but has not yet been implemented in Belgium, the judge suggested that would be a matter for parliament to decide. But the text of this directive clearly states that voluntary initiatives can be undertaken if the implementation is delayed. And delayed it is indeed in Belgium (…).”

So far copy protection has not been challenged very successfully in Europe. In September 2003 the French consumer organisation UFC-Que Choisir won a case against EMI, forcing them to remove copy-protected DVDs from the stores. But on 30 April 2004 the Paris Tribunal de Grand Instance rejected a challenge to the technical protections used on David Lynch’s film ‘Mulholland Drive’.

In the Netherlands, the Minister of Justice told the Lower House in 2003 during the debate about the European copyright directive that copy-control protections on audio CDs do not as such raise problems for consumers, given that such discs are primarily designed to be played on CD players.

De Morgen ‘Cd’s kopieren voor eigen gebruik is geen verworven recht’ (28.05.2004) (no direct link available, use ‘zoek’ and enter ‘kopieerbeveiliging’)

EDRI-gram 2.1 ‘Belgian consumer group sues music industry’ (15.01.2004)

EDRI-gram 13 ‘French consumer unions fight CD copy protection’ (16.07.2003)