Following the news reported earlier in TeleRead about moves by BREIN, the Dutch copyright-holders’ group, to organize retention of e-book buyer data for up to two years after purchase in order to help trace pirated e-books to their sources, Dutch parliamentarians have apparently taken up the issue themselves.

According to an official notice posted on, “the central access point to all information about government organisations of the Netherlands,” Dutch Labour Party parliamentarian Astrid Oosenbrug put a series of questions in the lower house of the Dutch parliement to the Ministry of Security and Justice on August 20th, asking, among other questions:

“Can the purpose of the laws and regulations regarding the protection of privacy force a third [party] to save customer information for at least two years?”

The Dutch parliament building, the Binnenhof

Apologies for any confusion created by Google Translate in the course of this article, but you should get the idea. Oosenbrug put a total of six questions to the Ministry regarding BREIN’s reported moves in partnership with the eBoekhuis platform to retain e-book customer data and, allegedly, to introduce digital watermarking of e-books to link them to their original purchaser.

As well as issues of protection of privacy, these questions also related to the legal status of resale of e-books within the Netherlands, and the topic of whether a truly free e-book market really exists in the country, given the existence of eBoekhuis.

Astrid Oosenbrug

Over on The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder questioned the veracity of at least some of Cory Doctorow’s reporting of the BREIN affair, and the whole question of digital watermarking. Without taking a position on Doctorow’s coverage itself, it does seem that the BREIN situation is getting enough attention within the Netherlands to merit at least some time in parliament.

“How does the transfer of such information to third parties [relate] to the laws and regulations regarding the protection of privacy?” asked Oosenbrug. I’ll try to find you the Ministry’s answers when or if they become available.




  1. Given the revelations about the NSA in the US and the probability that this kind of behavior will likely become normative in the global struggle against terrorism, we should all be very afraid.
    The ease with which such data can be collected, correlated with other data (e.g. location) and held ad infinitum magnifies the potential harm that could be done. Imagine some future Joe McCarthy publicly interrogating you years from now as to why you read a certain book in a certain location as fast as you did (indicating that you agreed wit its seditious content).

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