Site Shrugs Off Hollywood Shutdown Attempt, But Here Comes SOPA

Following legal action by the Hollywood studios, the UK's High Court ordered the country's leading ISP to block subscriber access to Usenet indexing site Newzbin2. As expected the group then used the decision to have a UK webhost shut down a similar site, NZBsRus. Although the site went offline for a few days, it's now back, hardened and more determined than ever. But are comebacks like this likely to become a thing of the past if SOPA passes?

The MPA action against Newzbin2 was extremely important for the Hollywood group – no other site had ever been blocked in the UK on copyright grounds before.

Before long it was confirmed that in addition to BT, other UK ISPs had been asked to block Newzbin2 on the same grounds, but the ruling was also helpful in other ways.

Through its UK anti-piracy proxy FACT, the Federation Against Copyright Theft, the MPA almost immediately targeted NZBsRus, another Usenet site with a similar function to Newzbin2. A legal threat or two directed towards NZBsRus’ host took the site offline last month.

Now, and despite our initial predictions, the site is back online. TorrentFreak tracked down the person who we had previously identified as the owner of NZBsRus who told us that having acquired the site in 2005 and running it with a team of like-minded individuals for four years, eventually things proved too much.

“In 2009 I had a few financial issues and was made an offer for NZBsRus which I accepted,” he told us. In order to smooth the takeover, the former owner says he stayed on the site for a short transitional period, and overlooked a seamless changeover to the site’s new owners.

But he still had a connection to the site via a reseller hosting account, meaning that 2 years later the bad news that the site had problems was relayed to him quickly.

“The server company relayed to FACT that I was just the main reseller of the account and was not responsible for payment of the server lease for the server NZBsRus was hosted on, which hopefully cleared things up for FACT, although I have tried to contact them myself with no response,” TorrentFreak was informed.

But while the site’s former owner tells us he is now in the corporate SEO business, the site’s reappearance shows that the people who took over NZBsRus in 2009 aren’t in a mood to quit serving up NZBs anytime soon.

“We do not reside in the UK so we are not bound by UK law, which we are very happy about as the UK always pass judgment without knowing specifics!” they told us. “The only reason nzbsrus.com was forced offline was because the site was still hosted on a UK server, which we took over from the previous owner.”

It seems that NZBsRus had remained on its previous hosting for good reason (moving it was simply too much trouble) but the takedown forced the owners’ hand. After ordering servers and waiting for them to be deployed, the giant task of moving and decompressing 100GB+ of site data was grudgingly undertaken.

“The files we are hosting are nothing like torrents and mere text files so the sooner those like FACT get there FACTS straight and realize that, the sooner they will realize they are wasting time & resources chasing the wrong people!” they add.

Of course the “right people” (if there are any, safe harbor permitting), are the Usenet hosting companies where the actual infringing content resides, so the really big question is what happens if/when SOPA springs into action. Will it provide the content industries with the tools to smash the likes of XSNews, Giganews, and all the rest into oblivion by blocking their domains and removing their payment processors on the basis that they aren’t doing enough to prevent infringement?

Think not? The ball is already rolling. Only last month Hollywood, through its Dutch proxy BREIN, forced the closure of News-Service, formerly one of Europe’s largest Usenet hosting companies, because the 15-year-old company was unable to comply with a court order forcing it to filter out all infringing content.

But according to Aldor Nini of anti-piracy solutions company Easycom, the technology for proactively filtering out infringing Usenet content already exists.

“Costs to do it would not be higher than 30% of News-Service’s annual profit – as far as I have checked documents which are related to their income – so I do not see a technical, and not even a commercial reason not to do it,” Aldor told TorrentFreak.

Easycom works with Hollywood and other rights holders so it begs the question: Does the SOPA definition of website liability (“taking, or has taken, deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of the website” to commit copyright infringement) include the refusal to install Hollywood and recording industry sanctioned proactive copyright filters?

If Hollywood can take out News-Service with existing legislation in the Netherlands, SOPA should make the takedown of the others child’s play, and if that happens the usefulness of NZBsRus and indeed Newzbin2 for any type of content could potentially be reduced to close to nil, and no amount of relocation or website blocking countermeasures will be able to do anything about that.

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