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RIAA wins case against Usenet.com

RIAA wins case against Usenet.com

Usenet.com has been found guilty of facilitating copyright infringement by charging users $13 per month to access the alt.binaries hierarchies.

The Recording Industry Association of America – RIAA to its friends and enemies – has sealed a major win in the US Federal Court against Usenet access provider Usenet.com, and proven that it understands that not all pirates use BitTorrent.

In a brief note on the RIAA website, the pro-copyright group's executive vice president Steven Marks explains that the ruling against Usenet.com is “another example of courts recognizing the value of copyrighted music and taking action against companies and individuals who are engaging in wide scale infringement.”

The case, which was brought before US District Judge Harold Baer, accused Usenet.com – a site which provides access to the Usenet newsgroups, including those under the 'alt.binaries' hierarchy from which pirated works are made available – of direct, contributory, and vicarious infringement of copyrights. Each of the points was upheld by Judge Baer.

As its defence, Usenet.com used the famous Betamax case ruling. That case, which was brought against Sony by Universal Studios, accused the defendant of facilitating copyright infringement by selling Betamax video recorders. The case was rejected on two counts: one, that Sony's influence over the use of the device ended once the product had been purchased; and second, that there were significant non-infringing uses for a Betamax recorder – proving that it was not developed solely as a means to infringe copyright.

The Betamax case forms a cornerstone of almost all defences against accusations that a company is producing devices which facilitate copyright infringement – from MP3 players to DVD writers. Sadly for Usenet.com, the Judge decided that ruling did not apply.

According to CNet, the Judge pointed out a major difference between the two cases which meant that the Betamax ruling should not be taken into consideration: while Sony's influence over the device ended as soon as it was purchased, Usenet.com enjoyed an ongoing relationship with its members – members who paid a monthly fee to access the Usenet hierarchies it provides.

Because Usenet.com had this ongoing relationship – and thus could, had it so chosen, have prevented its users from accessing possibly infringing works – and because of evidence that the company had tampered with evidence and failed to produce required witnesses, Judge Bayer rejected Usenet.com's defence and found it guilty of all charges.

The win is important for the RIAA on two counts: not only does it open the door for the group to target other providers of high-bandwidth Usenet access, but it also makes it far more difficult for providers of P2P or file hosting services to use the Betamax case as a defence in future.

Thus far, Usenet.com has not commented on the ruling - and its website still allows users to sign up to "unrestricted anonymous access," and encourages users to use the "Ultraleecher" file downloading software.

Do you believe that the RIAA needs to leave companies like Usenet.com alone, or are the premium Usenet providers sailing a little close to the wind by charging for access to the alt.binaries hierarchy? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

22 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Gunsmith 2nd July 2009, 10:15 Quote
damn, i couldnt care 2 shits about Bittorrent but this aint good.
liratheal 2nd July 2009, 10:16 Quote
I'm more surprised it took them this long to get sued.

Seriously shocking.
Buzzons 2nd July 2009, 10:33 Quote
Agreed Liratheal - I'm surprised that the Usenet sites weren't the first to get hit.
impar 2nd July 2009, 10:42 Quote
Greetings!

About time!
B1GBUD 2nd July 2009, 11:18 Quote
Law and Order FTW!!
Flibblebot 2nd July 2009, 11:37 Quote
If they tampered with evidence and failed to bring forward required witnesses, that kind of implies that they knew they were breaking the law.

The alt.binaries newsgroups have been around for an awfully long time - predating bittorrent by years - so I too am surprised that nobody's gone for them before.
Veles 2nd July 2009, 11:48 Quote
It's no-where near as common as torrents though
impar 2nd July 2009, 12:06 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Veles
It's no-where near as common as torrents though
Because it involves money, via subscriptions.
p3n 2nd July 2009, 12:49 Quote
/me hopes giganews survives, awesome for downloading all sorts - there is plenty of legit stuff on alt.binaries too - bloody mp3 police....
Shadow_101 2nd July 2009, 12:52 Quote
Sigh. Annoying that it’s finally come round to Usenet. giganews +SSL + newzbin + 24 mb pipe = Win
reflux 2nd July 2009, 16:09 Quote
Rapidshare will be next, surely.
HourBeforeDawn 2nd July 2009, 19:52 Quote
wow not ot sound like a broken record but I too am shock., I thought they would have been one of the first to be targeted.
themax 2nd July 2009, 20:19 Quote
Wonder when they will target IRC and try to shut it down completely.
proxess 2nd July 2009, 20:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by themax
Wonder when they will target IRC and try to shut it down completely.

I LAWled.

True tho. I wonder when.
Darkefire 2nd July 2009, 21:08 Quote
Usenet was targeted because the sites that provide access stupidly promote their service with "unlimited music, movie and game downloads", painting a giant bullseye on their chest. I'm not sure if IRC can really be shut down; its primary purpose is still largely chat and it will be tough to prove to a court that it's all about piracy. Rapidshare, Megaupload and their ilk should represent the largest targets, but with their policies of deleting files that are infringing without too many questions (as opposed to something like TPB, who just laughed) they'll make a difficult mark to bring down. That, and the fact that most of them are based outside of the U.S. and therefore outside of the RIAA's firing range.
airchie 3rd July 2009, 01:04 Quote
Sorry to hear this, giganews+sabnzbd+phat pipe is awesome.
Funny thing is, I use it mostly for TV shows cos its convenient.
If the copyright holders would make their content cheap and easy to access in a decent quality they would have more success against piracy IMO.

I don't download much music now.
Well, I do, but I hardly pirate it.
7digital ftw!! :)
thehippoz 3rd July 2009, 02:53 Quote
think they didn't do the usenet because it's a good way to catch the pedos.. they probably figure they've caught all they're gonna so next step :o
aLtikal 4th July 2009, 13:17 Quote
whan can be downloaded from giganews/usenet?
mooseguy 4th July 2009, 13:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by aLtikal
whan can be downloaded from giganews/usenet?
Everything.
aLtikal 4th July 2009, 13:37 Quote
all the same stuff from Bit torrent??
Psytek 4th July 2009, 14:25 Quote
altikal: Scene stuff is usually on usenet before even the best private torrent sites.
themax 6th July 2009, 02:15 Quote
Sucks that Usenet was targeted but they did incriminate themselves. I will admit. If it is even called pirating, Torrent/IRC are my two venues for aquiring fansubbed anime that hasn't made it's way to the U.S. and even when it is released in the U.S. I still prefer the unedited and "pure" version of my favorite animes. I still go back and sometimes download stuff that is years old (Mai Hime, Love Hina) because they are much funnier in their original screenings.
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