Did you hear the one about the file-sharing site that was dragged to court by the MPA and bankrupted, only to be reincarnated one month later by self-proclaimed hackers? Well, the MPA now says they were both run by a lawyer who was disbarred after it was discovered he was the owner of the site while simultaneously defending it in court. In the latest twist the lawyer, who previously referred to an MPA lawyer as a “prick”, says he’ll soon premiere a brand new NSA-proof email service.
While there can be little doubt that the story of The Pirate Bay is the most epic in the history of file-sharing, there is another that has so many unlikely twists and turns it barely seems real.
Indexing site Newzbin, the creator of the NZB format, was hugely popular with Usenet users and for this reason attracted the attention of the Motion Picture Association. After a ruinous High Court battle which left it massively indebted to the Hollywood studios, the site folded in May 2010.
Surprisingly, however, just weeks later the site reappeared as Newzbin2, its code apparently liberated by individuals known as Team R Dogs. The site immediately set about ruffling the feathers of Hollywood, actions which resulted in Newzbin2 becoming the first ever site to be blocked on copyright grounds in the UK.
Unable to maintain its funding the site eventually closed, but far from over the story is about to take a couple more unexpected twists. First off and according to the site’s former lawyer, Newzbin intends to make a comeback with new services designed to defeat NSA spying.
“We are horrified by the recently disclosed antics of the NSA in indiscriminately spying on all Internet users,” David Harris told TorrentFreak.
“We cut our teeth protecting our users from the surveillance of corrupt US corporations like the Hollywood movie studios. We now plan to bring a range of privacy services to help protect the public from governments. Our first product is a secure email service which is about to enter closed early beta testing.”
Now, the name David Harris may very well ring a couple of bells with readers. Harris was the original Newzbin’s lawyer, in fact for a while he defended the site in its High Court battle against the MPA.
However, that episode became mired controversy when it was discovered that not only was Harris the site’s lawyer, but he was also secretly the site’s owner having previously obtained 100% of the shares.
In 2012 the Bar Standards Board eventually disbarred Harris and fined him £2,500 after the Brighton-based barrister called MPA lawyers names including “prick” and “slimebag”. But 18 months later and Harris is now hoping to bring a new valuable service to the masses.
“Newzbin will be based in privacy protecting jurisdictions outside the territories of the United States & its cronies. Once out of Beta phase, it will be based in Switzerland,” Harris explains.
“We will not be complying with US National Security letters or government demands other than those from our host jurisdiction. Like Lavabit we will close rather than comply with orders violating our users’ privacy.”
Harris says that the new service, to be hosted at EncryptedMail.ch, is undergoing testing and should be available to the public by Christmas. However, despite the deaths of Newzbin and Newzbin2, there is still unfinished business with the MPA on the horizon.
“The MPA allege that Elsworth [former Newzbin creator and owner] & I dishonestly dissipated Newzbin’s assets in 2010 to avoid paying the MPA the £230,000 costs they were awarded after the 2010 trial. They say I did this by setting up offshore companies which I paid Newzbin’s remaining money into,” Harris explains.
“They allege that Elsworth and I, and maybe others, arranged the ‘theft’ of the source code & databases [of Newzbin] and then operated the Newzbin2 site and then infringed their copyrights. I deny that.”
Harris informs us that the MPA are claiming that he is none other than the infamous Mr White, the public face of Team R Dogs, the group behind Newzbin’s resurrection. To this end in late 2012 the MPA obtain injunctions against several of Harris’s companies which the former lawyer says were designed to put him out of business. Former Newzin owner Chris Elsworth has apparently settled with the MPA so will not be part of their action.
“Thus far the MPA have got me disbarred and killed my businesses but the email project is the start of my fightback,” Harris explains. “I intend to continue my fight to protect peoples’ privacy from governments. I also have other projects relating to p2p technology and Usenet in the formative stages.”
The MPA’s case against Harris is expected to go to trial in December 2013.