RealNetworks has sued the owner of a website in The Netherlands for displaying a hyperlink to a competing freeware package. As the company seeks compensation for its claimed losses, the 26 year old man is borrowing money from family to survive.
The case started in 2010, when RealNetworks demanded that computers belonging to Hilbrand Edskes and his family be confiscated. A Dutch judge granted this in an ex-parte ruling, based on an alleged violation of copyright law and trademark law. The company claims that Edskes was hosting the infringing software. The move to secretly obtain the order was meant to ensure that evidence wasn’t deleted.
Edskes runs a website, Codecpack.nl, that links to a wide variety of freeware programs. One of these is Real Alternative, a competitor to the RealPlayer software from RealNetworks. RealNetworks alleges that the software violates their trademarks and copyright, and it wants to be compensated for all downloads via Codecpack.nl.
Complicating the situation is the fact that Edskes wasn’t hosting the software, but redirecting to other sites for the actual download.
To date there have been two court sessions, and in December Edskes will have to testify under oath.
There is a heavy pricetag attached to the case. So far Edskes has incurred more than €66,000 (£58,000) in legal fees. He says the costs have cut off his savings, hindering him from buying his own house.
If he loses the case, Dutch law requires him to cover the legal fees incurred by RealNetworks. According to documents obtained by IDG title Webwereld, these costs are nearly €75,000.
RealNetworks claims Edskes failed to remove the link to the software, and the reference in the DNS directories existed after February 12, 2010. However, the provider of the hosting service claims to have checked backups and confirmed the removal of the link. The company that confiscated the computers has confirmed the immediate removal of the link.
What is unclear is the exact date the DNS reference disappeared, since backup cycles may only repeat every several weeks. RealNetworks alleges the infringement was ongoing for 43 days, and thus Edskes ought to pay €210,000 in fines. Edskes claims DNS caching is to blame for the delay.
The move by RealNetworks is a legal risk, given the attempt to prove infringement on the basis of a hyperlink alone. The documents seen by Webwereld also show that the company is unaware of who the real creator of Real Alternative is.
When asked a series of questions on the matter the company, through their Dutch legal firm, refused to comment. Questions will be answered only when the court has ruled, "no matter what the outcome is."