Did you know it is legal to download copyrighted content (aka file sharing) for personal use in some countries?

As the noose tightens around file sharing in many countries, do you know there are some countries in which you can legally download movies, TV shows, music, programs, video games, etc. as long as it is for personal use? No, no not “third-world” developing nations. Despite lax laws, most developing nations do not, as far as I know, officially condone file sharing. But Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Spain, and Russia do.

Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, and Russia have somewhat remarkable laws that permits their residents to legally download copyrighted content if the residents meet certain requirements. In Switzerland you are free to download (i.e. torrent or file share) any and all copyrighted content — including movies, TV shows, music, etc. — as long as the content is used for personal use (i.e. cannot be used for commercial or business purposes). In Netherlands, you can download movies, music, TV shows, and the like as long as you only keep a certain copies of a specific copyrighted work and it is for personal use. In Canada, you can freely download music as long as it is for noncommercial use and you don’t redistribute it (e.g. no uploading, if talking about torrents). In Russia, you can download music and movies without fear of repercussion as long as you are downloading for home consumption. In Spain, file sharing and torrenting of copyrighted content for private use has been repeatedly declared legal by the courts multiple times.

Amazing isn’t it. In the day and age where piracy is such a big issue in some countries, other countries simply shrug it off. In fact, some countries, Switzerland in particular, have come out and have rebuked claims by the entertainment industry that file sharing is hurting them. In Dec 2011 the Swiss Federal Council released a report that said roughly 1/3 of Swiss residents over age 15 pirate content but they still spend money on purchasing music, movies, games, etc., too. The report outright rejected claims by the entertainment industry that Swiss law is hurting the industry.

Other countries, such as Netherlands and Russia, appease the entertainment industry by levying a small tax on the consumption of specific goods, to make up for any lost profits due to file sharing by residents. Now why can’t we try something like that in the rest of the world, so we can put this piracy business behind us and use technological advancements to innovate and create better products and services? Of course a case can be made that it is impossible to crush piracy in totality; if we legalize it, piracy will simply rear its head in another form. However, we can deal with that as it comes. We shouldn’t stifle the use of new technologies for fear of what may happen in the future.

Note: This article is not intended to serve as legal advice. This article does not establish any implied or explicit attorney-client relationship between dotTech and you. I am not a lawyer. I am simply reporting what I read. Don’t sue me. Kapeesh?

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  • Robin

    In the Netherlands it’s illegal now :(

  • ecomm

    Just read yesterday that the highest court in the Netherlands actually thinks that downloading from illegal source isn’t legal anymore in the Netherlands, because of European law.
    However, it’s not up to the highest court in the Netherlands to judge about it, but up to the European court. For this reason they have asked the European court to give their judgement on the subject.

    I guess it seems only a matter of time till downloading of films and music will be illegal in the Netherlands. Like Bas said, copyrighted software (incl. games) was already illegal to download.

  • J.L.

    @meldasue: I really hate unnecessary hyperboles, and that’s putting it in a nice way. Guess what? Copy/=steal.

  • Coyote42

    “Other countries, such as Netherlands and Russia, appease the entertainment industry by levying a small tax on the consumption of specific goods, to make up for any lost profits due to file sharing by residents.”

    Ok, that’s the best idea I’ve heard so far. It’s almost like the “shoftlifting tax” stores add to their merchandise to make up for lost sales. But thinking back they tried this by adding cost to mp3 players and the like, so I don’t see that going over now that everybody carries a library on their phones.

  • Zapped Sparky

    Arrr mateys, thar be far away lands where ye not end up walking t’plank for file sharing?

    Personally I wait for a film to appear on a movie channel, and if I like it I get the DVD. Even if wanted to I wouldn’t bother getting them off the net due the high possibility of them being virus/malware infested, not to mention the high quality “cinema experience”.

    Namely, filmed at the back of the cinema with the added sound effects of popcorn being eaten and mobile phones ringing :)

  • meldasue

    It’s still stealing, unless it’s content you *can’t* buy, either because it’s not available in your country or not available for sale (such as movies or music that are hung up in legal disputes). (And I’ve gone back and bought legal copies of that kind of stuff when it did become available for sale.)

    What bugs me are the restrictions on things I’ve paid for – I should be able transfer from device to device or make changes to customise content as long as it’s for my own use. It would be like having a law that says you can only sit on your couch – you can’t use it for sleeping.

    (Of course, mattress tags are another matter. I never remove those. They’ll throw you in mattress tag jail.)

  • Ashraf

    @Bas: Thanks, fixed.

  • Bas

    In the Netherlands it is legal to download music and movies and things like that, but not software/games. So not all copyrighted content is free to download.

  • Ashraf

    @Craig: Tightening a noose may also cause suffocation. :-P

    Thanks for catching my typo. Fixed.

  • One usually tightens a noose. Tightening a nose may cause suffocation!