Usenet Community Not Guilty Of Copyright Infringement

Yesterday, the long-running case of Usenet community FTD versus the Eyeworks movie studio was heard in The Hague Court of Appeals. The Court largely reversed an earlier decision, ruling that it is not illegal for Internet users to inform others where illicit material can be found. However, FTD was found guilty of promoting illegal uploading.

After Dutch movie studio Eyeworks applied for a for a court injunction to stop Usenet community FTD from “making available to the public” their movie Komt Een Vrouw Bij De Dokter (A Woman Goes To The Doctor), the case was heard at a court in The Hague in early May.

The “making available” in this case was FTD users reporting to their community the locations of files which exist on Usenet.

FTD lost the case when the court decided that ‘spotting’ is an activity tantamount to publishing the actual movie. An ‘ex parte injunction’ (one handed down without any FTD involvement) was issued which banned the site from ‘spotting’ the Eyeworks movie.

FTD filed an objection to the decision and in June it was heard. FTD lost again.

Yesterday both parties were back in The Hague Court of Appeals and the subsequent ruling was somewhat of a mixed bag for FTD.

“The Hague court of appeals largely reverted the verdict against FTD,” FTD lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet told TorrentFreak.

“It was no copyright infringement to offer a site for ‘spotters’ who inform each other of downloadable material. Also, downloading for strictly personal use is legal, even from an illegal source,” he added.

However, FTD was found guilty of “stimulating” (promoting) illegal uploads.

“The court accepted the argument that most spotters are actually uploaders and FTD did not rebut this argument,” Engelfriet explained.

The reason FTD were not able to defend themselves on this point is because they maintained that they simply don’t know who uploads content to Usenet, so it’s impossible to ascertain whether they are also FTD users.

The end result is that the court issued an injunction against FTD ‘spots’ of the Eyeworks movie on penalty of a 10,000 euro per day fine.

That fact that downloading for strictly personal use is legal in The Netherlands, even from an illegal source, was confirmed in another case about private copying levies.

However, the court also noted that it may actually be illegal under European law to have legislation which allows such downloading. Nevertheless, Dutch citizens are first accountable under their own country’s law so as long as it remains, downloading pirate material is completely legal.

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