BREIN Uses Court Win As Leverage To Wipe Out Usenet Sites

Following their recent legal victory over Usenet portal FTD, anti-piracy group BREIN have been using this momentum to scare even more file-sharing related sites into submission. The Hollywood-linked outfit has just announced that it has forced the closure of a further 11 Usenet-related sites servicing 900,000 members although reports suggest the damage could be even deeper. The question is, however, were they even illegal?

Netherlands-based anti-piracy group BREIN is one of the few entities worldwide that spends significant amounts of time directly trying to force the closure of file-sharing connected sites. The group uses its resources to gain legal precedents and then hits ISPs over the head with them in order to force the shuttering of ‘infringing’ domains.

BREIN is now reporting that it has just forced the closure of 11 Usenet-related sites with a combined membership in excess of 900,000. As usual the Netherlands based outfit has refrained from formally naming its targets on its website in order to starve them of publicity should they choose to bounce back with new hosts. However, at least eight sites – nzbkingdom.net, Twilightnzb.com, Furiousnzb.net, Shreknzb.com, Team-Casanova.com, Crosspost.nl, Cobra-team.nl and FTAClub.net – are displaying messages which indicate interference from BREIN.

According to Webwereld, Dutch Binaries Program remains up but has ceased reporting the location of unauthorized content on Usenet. Other sites listed as affected include Movie2b and D4D.

The closures come hot on the heels of BREIN’s victory against the 500,000 member FTD Usenet portal earlier this month. Although FTD didn’t host or even link to any copyrighted material, after a prolonged legal battle a court ruled that the site was illegal because just 13 FTD members from more than half a million not only reported the location of infringing files on the worldwide Usenet system, but also uploaded them there. FTD will shut down March 1st.

However, despite the overall defeat for FTD, the court proceedings showed that the site didn’t breach copyrights, that the overwhelming percentage of its users acted legally and that the ‘spotting’ (reporting the location) of copyright material is also within the law.

So, the big question is this. When BREIN waved the FTD verdict at these sites and/or their hosts in order to force closure or compliance, had they previously gathered evidence to prove that members of these sites had been uploading content to Usenet?

TorrentFreak posed this very question to BREIN boss Tim Kuik this morning but we have yet to receive a response. However, for lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet, who has intimate knowledge of the law in this area through his connections with FTD, things aren’t so cut and dried.

“BREIN is using the FTD verdict to threaten other sites into closing. Even though the verdict clearly said downloading is legal and ‘facilitating’ downloading is legal as well, BREIN is now saying that sites that provide NZB files are facilitating illegal downloading,” he explained.

“This is a gross misrepresentation of what the verdict was actually about. Unfortunately it’s typical for BREIN to present their own view rather than the facts in order to force sites offline.”

The verdict in the FTD case clarified some points of law in The Netherlands, including the legality of downloading material even if from an illegal source. The court also concluded that facilitating downloading, even when this is done from an illegal source, cannot be unlawful.

Nevertheless, when an intimidating Hollywood proxy comes knocking on your door, shutting down is clearly an option being favored by many.

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