Court: Usenet Provider Can Be Held Liable for Pirating Users

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German music rights group GEMA is celebrating a legal victory against Aviteo, the company behind Usenet provider UseNeXT. The Regional Court of Hamburg ruled that the Usenet provider can be held liable for copyright infringements committed by its users. No damages amount has been established and the ruling can still be appealed.

Many seasoned file-sharers, who’ve been around for a while, will recognize UseNeXT as a familiar brand.

The Usenet provider advertised its services on popular platforms in the past, including many torrent sites. These promotional efforts also drew the interest of rightsholders, but not in a good way.

In Germany, the local music rights group GEMA, which represents roughly 72,000 artists, took UseNeXT’s parent company Aviteo to court. The first request for an injunction dates back to December 2006, almost twelve years ago but, despite several judgments, the battle is not over yet.

GEMA does, however, get to celebrate another victory this week.

The Regional Court of Hamburg recently ruled that the service provider can be held liable if its business model promotes the upload and distribution of copyrighted content.

According to the court, Aviteo Ltd is liable for the copyright infringements committed by its users in this case, which means that it must pay damages to GEMA.

“The judgment is a groundbreaking success for all authors”, GEMA’s legal advisor Dr. Tobias Holzmüller comments on the news.

“Online services like UseNeXT are primarily responsible and cannot hide behind legal privileges. The judges of the Hamburg Court have set an important precedent for claims for Internet piracy related damages.”

Traditionally speaking Usenet is a content-neutral system. However, providers such as UseNeXT offer specialized software that can make it easier for users to find specific content. If the software promotes infringement, a service can get in trouble.

According to GEMA, it is clear that UseNeXT went too far in this case.

“All in all, the offer is clearly geared to the download of works protected by copyright. This makes the services so lucrative for their operators,” the music rights group notes.

“The judges of the Hamburg Court clearly stated in their verdict that services whose business model is based on the illegal downloads of protected works owe rightsholders.”

Tarnkappe reports that while the verdict is another setback for the Usenet provider, it can still be appealed and is not final. The scale of the damages amount has yet to be established as well.


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