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Dutch Court Rules P2P File-Sharing Apps Are Legal

19 Dec, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

A Dutch court has ruled that peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing applications such as KaZaA are legal.

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands today became the first Supreme Court or other national high court to find making KaZaA publicly available legal, despite pressure from the American content industries to find otherwise.

The outcome of the case, brought in a countersuit by music rights society Buma/Stemra, sets a precedent about the legality of peer-to-peer technology across the European Union and around the world, said KaZaA attorney Christiaan A. Alberdingk Thijm.

The decision of the Supreme Court affirms a March 2002 ruling of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal, which found that offering KaZaA does not result in direct copyright infringement or other offenses against Buma/Stemra.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the issue of whether individual file sharers violate the copyrights of the music industry.

The decision roughly parallels a controversial ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Steven Wilson, who found that P2P program Grokster is a legal application, even though its users may choose to misuse it to infringe copyrights.

That decision is in conflict with another federal court's ruling that P2P application Aimster does contribute to copyright infringement.

KaZaA founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis hailed the Dutch court's ruling as a “historic victory for the evolution of the Internet and for consumers.”

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