Two for one? KR21 recommends that the Netherlands abolishes its ‘spare’ copyright act

The Netherlands has not one, but two, copyright Acts. One that is applicable to the European Netherlands and is compliant with EU law and a second act that is applicable solely to the Caribbean Netherlands, the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius (‘Statia’), and Saba (known collectively as the BES). KR21 has recommended to the Dutch government to abolish the Act that is specific to this small region of the country and to apply the European Netherlands’ Act to the BES, as the current situation is limiting access to information, knowledge and culture for the inhabitants of this part of the Netherlands. Thanks to our National Coordinator for the Netherlands, Maarten Zeinstra, for providing this blog!

In 2010 the Netherlands Antilles, to that point recognised as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was reorganised. Some islands chose to become special municipalities of the Netherlands: the BES-islands. The other islands that make up the country chose to be separate countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten) with their own independent laws. Since this reorganisation, the Netherlands has had two copyright acts, one for the European Netherlands and one for the BES. However, the copyright act for BES has not been updated since then, whereas the copyright act for the European Netherlands has been updated yearly.

Countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands by Thayts, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This leads to an increasingly weak legal position for the inhabitants of the BES part of the country with regards to their access to information, knowledge and culture. Society and technology have rapidly changed, and copyright and related rights have struggled to keep up with these changes in general, but in the BES, they haven’t moved on at all. For example, the EU introduced some good rules on the cross-border use of education, digitisation and making available of heritage, which are now part of European Netherlands law, but these benefits have not reached the BES-islands.

Additionally, the Netherlands has had some good ideas about secondary publishing rights and rights retention for authors. These apply within the European Netherlands, but it is questionable if they apply to the BES-islands as both the ‘Taverne Amendment’ and ‘Author’s contract law’ are not present in the BES Copyright Act . This means that not only do consumers of information, knowledge and culture have a weaker legal position, but so too do creators if they use the islands as the applicable law of their contracts.

Knowledge Rights 21 believes that access to knowledge is essential for education, innovation and cultural participation, and that everyone should have the possibility – in particular through libraries, archives and digitally – to access and use it. All citizens anywhere in the Netherlands should have equal access to knowledge and the opportunities knowledge brings – the country should not differentiate between the Netherlands on the European continent and its Caribbean islands.

Knowledge Rights 21 has therefore asked the standing committee on education, culture and science of the Netherlands parliament to look into the information and knowledge position of the inhabitants of this part of the Netherlands.

Read our letter here (in Dutch).


6 March 2023