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Usenet – The new(old) target? – Newzbin fails to convince court?

Usenet is now looking to be the new target for those seeking civil recourse for their material being shared without authorisation.

Ive commented in the past that the current tactics (and proposed DEB) could see a mass migration away from P2P and onto the binaries as their main source of copyrighted material.  It to me seems like no coincidence that there are reports of increased Usenet use and the interest in the (old) technology.

As Ive said before though Usenet poses a particular problem to the company wishing to recoup revenue from sharers.  Why? because as Im sure any old timers here (like me) or anyone with a keen knowledge in technologies will know that Usenet effectively removes the sharing element from the masses.

If you look at a file sharing case, it seems to hinge on the fact that the user in a swarm is either distributing the material to numerous people as a peer, or has infact completed the file and doing it as a seeder.  To me then, the case would be argued that the “distribution” of the material is covering a wide audience (dependent on the size of the swarm).

Usenet is different though.  For the downloader, the material is only coming to them, they are not uploading anything and certainly not sharing, which poses the average law firm with a problem.  The identifiable loss (in respect of that one user) would be that one title and ergo the case would seek to recoup only that one “infringement”, realistically that would only be the price of the film, unless it could be proved that the person had then gone on to distribute it to others.  Another problem with Usenet is that there is no “public swarm” and without someone authorising deep packet inspection of an none BT protocol on individual users, it would be impossible to merely “fish” for users downloading the material you were trying to protect.

Whilst for the downloader this sounds great, indexers of the material on Usenet may now come under fire as its been reported that Newzbin have just lost their case in court, where the judge agreed that infringement had taken place, saying:

….As a result, I have no doubt that the defendant’s premium members consider that Newzbin is making available to them the films in the Newzbin index. Moreover, the defendant has provided its service in full knowledge of the consequences of its actions. In my judgment it follows from the foregoing that the defendant has indeed made the claimants’ copyright films available to its premium members and has in that way communicated them to the public…..

Now a few interesting points come out of that (for me) defendant’s premium members” which to me suggests (yet again) that the matters that seem to be running to court are the ones where money is involved.  Newzbin is not the only NZB tracker out there, many of which have no fee system.  Add to that there are “un-indexed” Usenet listers which act a little like Google and whilst the output is not indexed and organized like a “proper” NZB site, its hardly difficult to tell what you are downloading.  NZB Indexers to me appear more like social networking sites with the ability to find the best “warez”

Your average NZB indexer appears much like a BT tracker at first glance (and certainly in respect of download) however Newzbin was said to have encouraged copyright infringement by allowing comments on the material listed (amongst other activities).  So whats your view?  and how far does the responsibility go for encouraging copyright infringement.  Type “Harry Potter NZB” into Google and see what I mean.  Should Google also be challenged, or would the argument be that Google is merely listing the sites that list the NZB’s?

When the fury over bittorrent was at its peak, I warned that this might happen.  I stated at the time that unless a solution was found, rather than piracy stopping, users would merely look for alternatives with less risk.  I would challenge ACS:Law or anyone else to track down someone who was facilitating Usenet to get the latest Harry Potter film.  Another interesting point came when I did a speed comparison of a download.  I downloaded a Linux distro from a well seeded swarm over on Linuxtracker and the identical distro from the binaries.  The average speed of the binaries blew the BT protocol out of the water, with even a swarm of 15 seeders and one peer (me) it could only achieve a max of about 290k per sec.  The binaries on the other hand rarely dipped below 420k per sec and had be questioning why people ever bothered with bittorrent in the first place.

Of course, regardless of if there is sharing involved or not, piracy is wrong.  I cannot and will not condone any distribution of copyright material without the owners consent.  As a Linux user and FOSS advocate it would be hypocritical of me if I was to say otherwise.  I believe end-users should be able to freely choose between proprietary or FOSS solutions and conversely those that provide proprietary solutions should be free to release them in anyway they wish without their rights being infringed upon by people who share their work without their consent.

Over at Technollama they have this to say about the Newzbin case:

This is an interesting result contrasting it with the earlier OiNK criminal case. I commented at the time that it seemed like the service was definitely infringing, but that the copyright holders had sought criminal liability instead of civil. If they had gone the civil way, the case might have looked similar to Newzbin. It is even more interesting that an uploader involved with OiNK has seen his case dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

To which I would agree completely.  For starters its argued that the burden of proof in a civil case (balance of probabilities) is less than that of a criminal court (beyond all reasonable doubt)  I’ve said before that the criminal route for the cases I have seen on the Net are wholly inappropriate both for the defendant and for the company concerned in my opinion.

So we repeat the cycle (yet again) of sucess, failure, sucess, failure (in respect of filesharing cases) and whilst both sides take their delight in their respective victories, the filesharing issue continues and damages the industry.  Mark my words as we see more aggressive attacks on filesharing, we will merely see a change of technology, I don’t think the industry can keep up with the innovation nor can law have the remit to cover all facets of modern tech.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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About Tim

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturalism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.


10 thoughts on “Usenet – The new(old) target? – Newzbin fails to convince court?

  1. I think that the best explanation I’ve seen of the case is the one on Techdirt. To quote ‘If you actively promote infringing activities, courts are not going to look kindly on your activities, even if the actual infringement is done by users.

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | April 1, 2010, 2:06 pm
    • And I would say that sums it up nicely. Having looked at some of these “private” trackers or the common theme seems to be the belief that a disclaimer can absolve them of any legal challenge, of course it can’t and doesn’t.

      Whilst we are on the subject, why do people also feel safe on private trackers…..even with my strong anti piracy stance I could still convince people into getting me an invite, since the majority of the members of these sites don’t seem particularly bright. Do the members of these trackers think that the RIAA can’t do the same?

      Again as I said in my article the interest in the trackers that accept donations for any purpose are the ones that seem to get the attention. The ironic thing is whilst users complain about companies charging for their material, some of them seem more than happy to pay money for perks on sites that list links to it……go figure….is this sort of like proprietary by proxy?

      I can see incoming links in their hundreds to my articles from filesharing forums yet not one person has been able to justify copyright infringement…. I think that says it all.

      Posted by goblin | April 1, 2010, 6:23 pm
  2. I’ve talked to some of the people involved in running Private Trackers. None of them are making a profit out of the donations. In fact all of them are devoting a considerable amount of time to running their trackers, time which they could put to more profitable activities.

    In other words, most of them are involved because they love music, video, whatever. Not for the money.

    The large corporates on the other hand are in this for the money, and are quite happy to screw the artists whenever they can. So we end up with a situation where the copyright owner is being screwed by the corp which is supposedly helping him/her distribute their creation, rather than the file sharers. And the large corporates are the ones that are screaming about file sharing. Many artists are fine with file sharing, or posting clips on YouTube. It’s their distributors who complain, and often by doing so damage the artist’s career. For example the band OK Go had posted videos on YouTube and the label wouldn’t allow the videos to be embedded.

    The lead singer of OK Go wrote a New York Times OP ED Piece about the situation, and the band eventually dumped EMI.

    You’ve often said that the copyright owner should be able to make the choice. Well in this case the copyright owner made the choice, and were blocked by their label. Do you think that this is right?

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | April 1, 2010, 7:41 pm
    • Sorry, Ive just noticed that the above comment was waiting in Akismet’s “Pending”.

      “None of them are making a profit out of the donations. In fact all of them are devoting a considerable amount of time to running their trackers, time which they could put to more profitable activities.”

      If they are accepting donations THEY ARE making profit. It matters not if the money ends up as beer money, to pay for the hosting or gets donated to a charitable cause. Imagine a drug dealer donating profits to charity does this make the offence any different – no.

      Quote “In other words, most of them are involved because they love music, video, whatever. Not for the money.”

      That may be true. Changes nothing.

      Quote “The large corporates on the other hand are in this for the money, and are quite happy to screw the artists”

      But then there is no defense of “Its ok, I may do X but then other people do Y”…..thats never been a defense for anything and sounds rather like a MS advocate when they are trying to justify the software/actions.

      Quote “Many artists are fine with file sharing”
      and I can only think of the ones that are not. Either way, infringement on the trackers doesn’t seem to differentiate and it appears a free for all.

      Quote “The lead singer of OK Go wrote a New York Times OP ED Piece about the situation, and the band eventually dumped EMI.”

      and thats great, but there are those that havent/dont

      Quote “You’ve often said that the copyright owner should be able to make the choice. Well in this case the copyright owner made the choice, and were blocked by their label. ”

      Easy, they had obviously entered into a contract and regardless of whose material, they are bound by the agreement and how the label handles that material.

      Quote “Do you think that this is right?”

      Its really not my place to say, but I wouldn’t infringe copyright whatever my view.

      Posted by openbytes | April 2, 2010, 5:09 pm
  3. Oh, and here’s another case of the label blocking the copyright owner from doing what they want. In this case the copyright owner is Beyonce, and the label that is acting like a bunch of idiots is Sony.

    Posted by The Mad Hatter | April 1, 2010, 7:43 pm
  4. In respect of the link that may well be a good example of where the labels can be harmful or counterproductive…..thats not the point in the context of this article though since we are talking about people who don’t have any stake in the material doing with it as they wish.

    Sony do make damn good TV’s though😉

    Posted by openbytes | April 1, 2010, 7:50 pm


  1. Pingback: Links 1/4/2010: MeeGo and GNOME 2.30 Are Out | Techrights - April 1, 2010

  2. Pingback: LottaNZB 0.5.3 (HellaNZB frontend) & The future of the binary newsgroups? « OpenBytes - April 20, 2010

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Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets, both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast.  Supporter of free and open source software.

Committee member of the Seaham Red Star Football Club.


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