The first rule of Usenet is, you don’t talk about Usenet. This rule kept Usenet providers and users out of sight from anti-piracy organizations for years. Ironically, the Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN are now the first ones trying to enforce this rule in court.
The Usenet community FTD allows its nearly half a million members to discuss and report the location of material they find on Usenet, without explicitly linking to copyrighted content. The operators of the site see no harm in what they do, but according to Dutch anti-piracy organization BREIN, online communities should not be entitled to allow these kinds of discussions on their websites.
Talking about copyrighted content on Usenet is illegal they argue, and BREIN wants FTD to be shut down for allowing this. The newsgroup community, however, is not prepared to tolerate BREIN’s accusations and has decided to take action. Earlier this year FTD took BREIN to court, demanding that it should retract its numerous statements that FTD operates illegally.
In a letter to the court in this ongoing case, FTD’s lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet stated yesterday that BREIN is going too far with its statements. Downloading copyrighted files and music for personal use is perfectly legal in The Netherlands, so he sees no reason why merely talking about it should be illegal.
FTD users do not ‘make files available’ and are therefore not acting against the law. “Hyperlinks, torrents, NZB-files or other technical possibilities to download copyrighted works are not provided. BREIN says in effect that it should be forbidden to talk about downloading material,” Engelfriet added.
Undeterred, BREIN maintained their stance and declared FTD a criminal operation. In a counter-claim against FTD, the anti-piracy outfit has demanded $70,000 a day in penalties if the Usenet chatter continues.
Needless to say, if BREIN wins their case this will have serious implications for many other websites and communities, including TorrentFreak. Simply mentioning that a movie such as 2012 can be downloaded through BitTorrent would no longer be allowed according to Engelfriet.
FTD’s lawyer is confident about the positive outcome of the case, arguing that FTD is operating within the boundaries of Dutch copyright law.
“We fully expect to win our case. BREIN is big on statements but often short on facts and legal arguments to back them up,” Engelfriet told TorrentFreak earlier, adding that they “have the law and the facts” on their side.
The verdict in this case is expected to be announced sometime next year. Until then, here’s our Usenet tutorial.