Court rejects ban on second hand e-book sales, refers to Europe

A court in Amsterdam has rejected calls from Dutch book publishers to stop the sale of second hand e-books via an injunction.

Publishers went to court in an effort to have the sale of second hand digital books via website Tom Kabinet banned. They say the website breaches authors’ rights legislation and is facilitating the sale of illegal e-books.

The website argues the rules for the sale of e-books should be the same as for paper ones, claiming it only sells legal e-book editions and the original owner has to destroy their copy as soon as it is sold on.

However, the NUV argued this does not go far enough and it is impossible to check if legal or legal copies are changing hands.

European court

In its ruling, the court said European jurisprudence does not make it clear if there is a legal difference between selling a second hand e-book and a paper version. In the absence of this, it would be wrong to ban the sale of second hand e-books.

Given Tom Kabinet’s way of working, it should not be treated as a pirate and publishers should not avoid discussing the issue with it, the court said in a statement. ‘Tom Kabinet intends to work together with publishers and to tackle illegal downloading,’ the court statement said.

Prior to the court case being heard, Tom Kabinet had around 700 e-books for sale, and had sold around 250 for around €5 each, the Volkskrant said last week. Founder Judith Mariën said she set up the site because she was shocked at the cost of e-books, many of which retail at around €14 each.

Publishers’ lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm told news service IGD he was ‘very disappointed’ by the ruling. Proceedings at the European Court could take years during which ‘publisher damages continue to mount’, he said.