This week the MPA’s lawyers were in the High Court claiming that Usenet indexing site Newzbin2 costs them millions of pounds due to illegal movie downloads. To this end they want BT to block the site but the ISP is refusing. BT says that by complying it would open the floodgates for hundreds of other site-blocking requests. Now, for the first time this week, Newzbin2′s owners speak out.
There have been dozens of news reports on the High Court proceedings this week. While the MPA and BT have made token comments to the press, the thoughts and opinions of Team R Dogs, the group behind Newzbin2, have not featured anywhere.
Despite an earlier statement which indicated that Newzbin2′s owners would hire lawyers to fight attempts to have them blocked by ISPs in the UK, the site was not represented at this week’s hearing nor did they have any type of input.
Today, through site spokesman Mr White, Team R Dogs denounce what the team feel are the pointless efforts of the “Copyright Dinosaurs” at the MPA and bemoan the site’s lack of input at the High Court proceedings.
“A Newzbin2 themed costume party, with horsehair wigs, and no-one invited us. The MPA didn’t invite us, BT didn’t invite us, the court didn’t invite us. Team R Dogs would have loved to have had some say,” Mr White explains.
Nevertheless, although the input of the team would have been useful, their absence from the proceedings shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, despite their enthusiasm.
Not only would their involvement represent a huge financial cost to the site, any official contribution would almost certainly require that the site’s ownership break their carefully crafted cover. As observers of file-sharing litigation will recognize, that kind of exposure can open up unwanted and painful fronts when fighting an entity such as the MPA.
The importance of the action, however, is clear to Newzbin2.
“If the MPA get this injunction they will certainly, in the mould of the Internet Watch Foundation, start to add to the list other sites that offend them, e.g. the Pirate Bay. All of this will probably also be secret and, like us, not subject to an appeal or any due process,” Mr White explains.
“What happens when some bunch of quackpot frauds like homeopaths decide that instead of suing Simon Singh and losing, it would be easier to force BT to block access to any website referring to his debunkings?”
But of course, getting a site blocked either by injunction or via some other private company-run firewall service is one thing, getting a site white-listed again is another matter.
Mr White says that even if Newzbin2 began operating in an MPA-approved manner in the future, it is doubtful that event would signal the lifting of any granted injunction or ISP blockade, something that would prove unpopular with site subscribers.
“The injunction will be hated by our users – none of whom have asked for the site to be blocked: those trying to access our content, much of it legal, will simply be denied access to a site they have paid a membership to. Web blocks only ever work where people bump into a site accidentally; our users will simply use Google to find us by some other method: probably a method provided by us.”
As noted in our earlier article, BT was selected by the MPA not only because it’s the largest UK ISP, but because it already has blocking technology in place. Known as Cleanfeed, the system is used by the ISP to block images of child abuse.
Whatever readers may think of Newzbin2′s actions, those of the MPA, BT, or any decision coming from the High Court, blocking images of exploitation has to be a good thing. The problem here, however, is that along with blocking technologies come unblocking technologies, and they will only become more prevalent as more people need them.
Currently only a small subset Internet users need to know how to evade blocks to get to child porn; giving millions of others trying to access sites such as Newzbin2 the ability will eventually tear a hole through the originally well-intentioned Cleanfeed, and that can never be good. The copyright war continues to cause collateral damage, the “unintended consequences” so often spoken about.
“Newzbin2 is currently evaluating methods to defeat Cleanfeed without the need to adopt radical technological changes (although we are looking at those too for the future).
“Blocking us is futile and the MPA have made Cleanfeed technology a target to be defeated by those determined to counter censorship technologies. How unfortunate if that allows perverts to prosper. Perhaps the MPA should have thought of the kids?”
The Newzbin2 team also criticize the words of MPA Euro head Chris Marcich when he said this week that Hollywood had “explored every route to get Newzbin to take down the infringing material” and was ultimately “left with no option but to challenge this in the courts.”
“Two things have obviously never passed the lips of Mr Marcich: the truth, or the tongue of a loving woman,” says Mr White.
“Newzbin2 has never heard a peep out of the MPA; not so much as a Christmas card let alone a DMCA takedown notice.”
Going on to differentiate Newzbin2 from the original Newzbin (the site battered by the MPA in a 2010 legal victory), Mr White says that the latest incarnation of the site “respects copyright and acts on DMCA notices: [the MPA] just haven’t sent us any.”
Of course, DMCA notices are from the US legal system and don’t mean very much in a UK court. Furthermore, Team R Dogs say they are not UK-based and therefore are not bound by UK copyright law. The site itself appears to be hosted in Sweden. Such is the nature of the Internet; are we here, there, or somewhere else when using it?
Nevertheless, ISPs in the UK are required to take action against direct infringement when they become aware of it which brings us full circle to the very point of the MPA’s demands for an injunction against Newzbin2. But does the MPA’s request go too far?
We will have to wait for that decision. Yesterday Mr Justice Arnold said the court will make a formal judgment soon after July 12th, pending the outcome of another case involving the sale of counterfeit products on eBay.
The ruling in that case, i.e whether eBay is responsible for illegal products being sold by 3rd parties via its site, will have a bearing on the Newzbin2 case.