Usenet Indexer Prepares For MPAA High Court Battle

In May 2008, Newzbin - considered by many to be the Internet’s premier indexer and .NZB provider - announced it was under legal threat from the MPA, the MPAA's worldwide big brother. On Monday next week, the copyright infringement showdown in London's High Court begins.

Newzbin is one of the original Usenet indexing sites and the creator of the ever-popular .NZB format, which opened up simplified Usenet downloading to the masses.

After years of trouble-free operation as the MPAA focused on shutting down the growing ‘threat’ of the snowballing BitTorrent scene, in May 2008 the operator of Newzbin made an announcement.

The company which owns Newzbin had received a threatening letter from the Motion Picture Association (MPA), the MPAA’s big brother. In the letter the MPA claimed that some of the site’s editors (users who report on the location of material uploaded to the worldwide Usenet system) were listing NZBs which linked to movies on Usenet which infringed their member’s copyright.

“Newzbin has recently received two serious complaints regarding the indexing we perform, and raising doubts as to its legality. It is likely that we will in the coming weeks be presented with a court case and have to defend our rights,” said ‘Caesium’, the owner of Newzbin.

Caesium added that the site had never condoned the distribution or indexing of copyright works and insisted that site staff would act immediately to remove any items found to be infringing copyright.

Noting that Newzbin would defend itself vigorously against the complainants, Caesium said he believed that linking to content on Usenet is entirely legal and that the site’s procedures for dealing with unlawful content were appropriate.

“We believe that, or we wouldn’t still be here,” he added.

In December 2008, Newzbin confirmed that it had been removing NZB files which allegedly linked to copyright works stored on Usenet. The MPA still chose to file an injunction against the site.

Now, well over a year later, the showdown of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation & ors v Newzbin Ltd is set to begin next week before Mr Justice Kitchin in London’s High Court.

According to an announcement yesterday by Newzbin’s legal team, the case should last around a week but it’s unknown when any verdict will be handed down following its conclusion.

As we all know, the recent trial of Alan Ellis ended in an acquittal for the ex-OiNK admin and, just like Newzbin, his site hosted no copyright works and provided only meta data which linked to material hosted elsewhere.

However, Ellis’s charge was one of fraud, allegedly conducted by an individual and dealt with under criminal law, while that leveled against Newzbin is one of allowing and inducing illegal copying, i.e copyright infringement, but carried out by a bona fide company under civil law.

After Ellis’s acquittal, John Kennedy of the IFPI expressed disappointment at the “spectacular failure” of the criminal action and suggested that these type of complex cases should not be held in a crown court, but in the Chancery Division of the High Court.

This is exactly where the Newzbin case is being heard, so this is certainly one to watch. Unlike Ellis who faced possible jail time, Newzbin faces a claim for damages should it lose its case.

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