BREIN Demands $70,000 Per Day Penalty For Usenet Community

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Earlier this year, anti-piracy outfit BREIN demanded the closure of Usenet community FTD. After negotiations between the pair came to nothing, BREIN declared FTD a criminal operation prompting FTD to take legal action against BREIN to clear their name. Now BREIN is counter-claiming against FTD, demanding $70,000 a day in penalties.

Founded in 2001, FTD is the largest Usenet community in The Netherlands with around 450,000 members. FTD and its software allows members to report material they find on Usenet along with its location. This material could include movies, music and TV shows and this made it a target for notorious anti-piracy outfit BREIN.

BREIN says that FTD operates illegally but the Usenet community and its specialist IT lawyer, Arnoud Engelfriet of Ictrecht law firm vigorously deny this and are now taking legal action the Dutch anti-piracy outfit. The background to the case can be found in our earlier article, and a more detailed report on the action against BREIN here.

Yesterday, while BREIN’s site was still supposedly out of action following an alleged (or Hoaxed) DDoS attack from Pirate Bay fans, it published a further report about FTD, which was hidden on its site away from easy public viewing. Strangely the same page at the time of writing is password protected and the report unavailable, but we have a copy and translation.

Entitled ‘BREIN Demands Closure of FTD’, the anti-piracy outfit went on to say that if FTD does not close it will require a penalty of 50,000 euros ($70,000) per day against the service, in addition to compensation and full reimbursement of costs. BREIN said that FTD “organizes and promotes” Usenet content, most of which is illegal.

BREIN then refers to earlier discussions it had with FTD, noting that it asked FTD to cease its “structural use of illegal content” in early 2009. The two sides had entered discussions to see if they could iron out their difficulties. Following on, FTD pro-actively modified how they operate to ensure that there could be no doubt as to their legality.

“After we made the changes, we got complete radio silence from BREIN. No confirmation, no rejection, nothing,” Arnoud explained. “Only after several days we found out what BREIN thought – but only by reading the online news. That was a huge disappointment.”

The news saw BREIN declare that FTD was a criminal operation in an article titled “You do not pay for it, it’s unlawful” and this led to FTD taking legal action against BREIN to try to clear their name by having their operation declared legal by a court. Now BREIN is counter-claiming against FTD.

Tim Kuik from BREIN now says that it is clear that FTD “continued their abuses unabated” and that the modifications they made were only made to hide the “true nature” of the site.

“It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Kuik. “FTD earn money with a system that exists by virtue of the huge supply of illegal content to Usenet.” Mirroring the disappointment felt at FTD, Kuik added: “It is disappointing but illustrates that BREIN’s outstretched hand has been cut off.”

So what exactly does this claim for 50,000 euros per day mean for FTD? Lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet told TorrentFreak that BREIN did not ask the court for damages. Legally they are barred from asking for damages – article 3:305a of the Dutch Civil Code says that an organization that represents the interests of a certain group can never ask for damages. They asked instead for a penal sum of 50k euros if FTD were ordered by the court to shut down but it refused.

“The idea is that a court can order you to shut down but you can ignore the court,” said Arnoud. “With the penal sum, you risk that the court will then sell your house or seize other assets. In principle that’s legal, but the amount is of course ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous also sums up my view of the BREIN counterclaim. Instead of addressing any of the points we raised, they simply repeat their standard rhetoric. Nowhere is the distinction made between uploading works and telling people that someone has uploaded a work for (legal) download. And downloading illegal uploads is legal in the Netherlands,” notes Arnoud.

“BREIN is not known for its careful handling of the truth,” he added. “They are a propaganda organization after all.”

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