An attempt by Dutch artists to force a levy be imposed on sales of iPods, MP3 players and blank optical media was foiled in a Netherlands court yesterday.

Artists and music labels in the territory have faced a steep decline in music sales for the last few years, a decline which has not been married to significant increases in sales of legitimate downloads.

At issue in this particular local market was a Dutch court decision in late 2006, in which it was declared rights holders could not legitimately request the identities of individual file-sharers. This effectively gave carte-blanche to local music fans to take music from illegal websites without fear of prosecution.

While the legitimacy of the privacy argument has some merit, the impact of the regulation has been a concomitant decline in the music industry, causing artists and copyright holders to argue for the levy on iPods, etc.

But local government has accused local rights bodies – who already hold responsibility for distributing money to artists under existing levies – of not being efficient.

“You cannot give such a system the responsibility for a new levy if you know that it is not working properly,” a justice ministry spokesman said.