BREIN Wants Usenet Provider To Start Filtering

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In recent months there have been several attempts by anti-piracy groups to force file-sharing sites to filter links from their systems. But now in a bold move by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, there are demands that a Usenet provider should proactively filter infringing content from the worldwide newsgroup system.

For the music and movie industries, the blocking of file-sharing websites and/or the filtering of links they carry is fast becoming a fashionable weapon of choice. Perhaps the most famous example was the assault on Mininova, which culminated in the site having to remove huge numbers of torrents which may (or indeed may not) point to copyright content.

That action was forced by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN who are making more than their fair share of headlines recently, and who are about to make even more. While successfully demanding that Mininova remove links to infringing content, BREIN have never really made inroads into getting the actual infringing content removed from the Internet – but all that could be about to change.

In a fairly bold move even by their standards, the anti-piracy group headed up by Tim Kuik has initiated legal action to force a Usenet service provider, much like Giganews or Newshosting, to start proactively filtering content from the worldwide newsgroup system.

The small seven-employee Usenet company is being sued by BREIN on claims that it facilitates copyright infringement and is demanding that the company ceases to offer copyright material or face fines of 50,000 euros per day.

Technical director of Patrick Schreurs strongly refutes BREIN’s claims and says that his company only provides access to Usenet and maintains that it is a mere conduit of information.

“BREIN’s move is comparable to suing a postal service for shipping illicit goods,” he said.

Schreurs’ assertion that trying to check up to 20 million daily Usenet messages is an impossibility raises a very real concern. If a legal requirement to filter perfectly, as was the case with Mininova, is implemented against News-Service (on pain of 50,000 euros per day in fines) the company could not carry this burden for long. If BREIN gets their way, Schreurs says the company will have to stop providing Usenet access.

News-Service already operates a Notice-and-Takedown system but, as was the case with Mininova, BREIN is not satisfied with its scope or performance.

“We were under the assumption that with this procedure we met the wishes of BREIN and that we would work on a solution together,” said Schreurs. “We regret the fact that BREIN has chosen a different course with this [legal] action.”

The case, the first of its type against a Usenet provider in The Netherlands, was heard on April 19th and the judge is expected to announce his decision early next month.


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