Dutch Princess Photograph Controversy
The Dutch Royal Family are often criticised for their legal objections to the publication of unofficial photographs featuring family members. In October, 2007, they sued Vereniging MARTIJN after a user posted official pictures of a three-year-old Royal Princess to a webforum operated by the group. The verdict of this hearing has been described as a precedent for the censorship of user-generated content, via a chilling effect in Dutch Law.
- October 24 - MARTIJN received objections from the Royal Family, concerning official photos of the Princess that had been posted on their web forum. They were ordered to remove these photographs. Eventually, the photographs were removed.
- October 26 - At 13:38, MARTIJN are ordered by e-mail to remove the photos from a "hidden section" of their website, which was in fact an administrator's room, used for reviewing deleted topics. The legal representative was aware that the thread still existed, as the photographs were located on the Royal Family's official website, meaning that they had access to information about where they were being viewed. On 14:55 (5 minutes before deadline) MARTIJN answered, asserting that no photos had existed on the hidden section of their website. At 16:45, they received a court order, including documentation. They were to attend court on 11:00 on the 29th, ordered to pay a fine and sign an agreement saying that they would owe 50,000 Euros for every future "offence" of posting such a photograph. The lawsuit was premised upon the royal family's right to privacy.
- Unsurprisingly, the story hit the media, and the anti-pedophile weblogs over the weekend of 27 and 28 October, with self-made dog protection activist and "pedophile hunter" Yvonne van Hertum weighing in particularly heavily. Using her then stopchildabuse.wordpress.com website, she characteristically bragged about giving the prosecutor information, and slammed what she saw as the "filthy" language accompanying the photos on MARTIJN's website.
- October 27 and 28 - A well known attorney in the IT field (Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm) publishes a column piece on a prominent Dutch news site, entitled "Who will save MARTIJN" (trans). He states his fear that this case might set a precedent for "bad law", and the censorship of web forums, bearing in mind that the image was linked by a user, and removed by the website's owner.
- Roderik Muit is asked to visit a lawyer who has defended MARTIJN in the past, but the lawyer is not in. Eventually, MARTIJN find out that the lawyer is not available to defend MARTIJN, so Muit voluntarily steps forward to read MARTIJN's statement at court on the 29th.
- October 29 - The Hearing - Muit reads the defence statement available in our references, and Government Attorney Henk Jan Boukema presents the case for the prosecution. Van Hertum's complaint against the allegedly "filthy" language in the MARTIJN went forward as evidence in the prosecution case, despite the fact that the 'filthiest' language visible in the screen-shots accompanying the prosecutor's complaint was that of a poster describing it as "fortunate" that the royal family had children. A number of media organs are keen to interview Muit after the hearing, and he co-operates.
- September 4 - A verdict was reached. MARTIJN were not fined, but were charged for all court costs (about EUR 1250), and forced to pay a future fine for every repeat offence (EUR 5,000).
RTL Boulevard, a "glossy" news magazine TV show in The Netherlands, were particularly active in publicising the hearing, Muit's defence and the eventual verdict. On Monday, the night after the court hearing, they aired a piece which included a short clip of Muit, accompanied by the subscript "Roderik Muit, MARTIJN member", naming Van Hertum's group multiple times as well. Two days later, Muit received a personal phone-call from a RTL Boulevard staff member, who pleaded with him to ditch his involvement with MARTIJN, asserting that Yvonne van Hertum was probably earnest in her 'quest'.
On Thursday night, RTL Boulevard did a piece on the verdict. The female presenter mentioned that she respected Muit for standing up in defence of free speech. She was cut off by her flamboyant male counterpart who equated her "vagueness" with what he saw as the typical pro-pedophile argument, handing over to a "crime expert" guest by suggesting that the same argument must be common among sex tourists, probably referencing their involvement in child pornography. Two months later, the female presenter left the show, dissatisfied with its general tone.