Hundreds warned as data disappears

Wednesday, 12 March 2003, 1:24 PM EST

Contrary to implications in recent media reports, Dutch lawyers say their small European country shouldn't be held up as the poster child for file-sharing and copyright violation.

court case against file-sharing service Kazaa helped stir up the confusion. Dutch royalties agency Buma/Stemra sought an injunction against Kazaa to stop it from distributing a file-sharing utility and allowing copyrighted material to be swapped on its network. But the judges in the case said Kazaa could not be responsible for the illegal actions of others. Buma/Stemra appealed the decision to the Dutch Supreme Court.

But in the meantime the rumor has spread that the Netherlands is a shelter for file-sharing companies. Lawyers on both sides of the Dutch Kazaa case say that's just not true.

"The Netherlands is no haven for peer-to-peer computing," said Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, a partner at Solv, the Dutch law firm representing Kazaa.

Thijm's opponents in the court action agreed. "This case does not mean that the Netherlands is a legal-free haven," said Buma/Stemra spokesman George Knops.

No matter the outcome of the Kazaa case, other file-sharing companies could still face legal action in the Netherlands. And even if Kazaa wins the appeal, the judgment would apply to Kazaa alone and won't prevent the company from being sued by someone else.

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