BREIN Cites Newzbin Defeat, Shuts Dutch Usenet Links Site

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has been flexing its metaphorical muscles again, this time to shut down a lesser-known Usenet site. MasterNZB offered .nzb files, the Usenet equivalent of .torrent files, but following pressure from the Hollywood funded group it folded to legal threats.

Anti-piracy group BREIN is probably best known on a global scale for its work in forcing the closure of Netherlands-based BitTorrent indexer, Mininova. The closure of this huge site didn’t happen in isolation though, since operations against other, much smaller sites had earlier smoothed the way.

BREIN’s tactics are fairly transparent. In order to take down larger sites more easily, BREIN first uses its strength to dominate very small sites that are ill-equipped to fight back and defend themselves. By obtaining favorable rulings against these relative minnows, BREIN is able to create a favorable legal climate in which to attack the larger targets, supported by rulings which might never had happened had they gone after the bigger sites first.

While BitTorrent sites have been the traditional target for BREIN, more recently they have paid more attention to Usenet-related sites. Its case against the FTD community is still ongoing.

“Hyperlinks, torrents, NZB-files or other technical possibilities to download copyrighted works are not provided,” FTD’s lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet earlier explained. “BREIN says in effect that it should be forbidden to talk about downloading material.”

However, while FTD have the resources to stand up to BREIN, other sites do not. On Friday, lesser-known NZB site MasterNZB announced that it had been forced to close down after BREIN threatened its owner, Stefan M, with legal action.

“Dear Members, unfortunately we have bad news! That is, we are summoned by BREIN to shut down our site,” said the statement. “We hope you had fun at out website. We certainly had a good time with you.”

BREIN links the closure of MasterNZB with the decision in the UK a couple of weeks ago to issue an injunction against Usenet-indexer, Newzbin.

“The Dutch courts generally find that such services are illegal and liable for damages because they make systematic and structural use of the availability of unauthorized files on the Internet,” the group said in a statement.

What is particularly telling about the strategy employed by BREIN, is that while they are happy to threaten or take legal action against those who simply index illicit content, they make no attempts to go after the Usenet companies (Giganews, Highwinds etc) that actually host the infringing material.

Make no mistake, these companies carry huge amounts of infringing material on their servers but, unlike most of the smaller sites targeted by BREIN (they claim to have shut down 15 Usenet indexers to date), they also have considerable resources with which to fight back. Taking on these guys would be a considerable drain on BREIN’s resources and could even damage them beyond repair.

But that’s not going to happen. Plenty of small guys to go after yet.

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