Lawsuits against individual file-sharers are nothing new in the United States. In recent years hundreds of thousands have been accused of sharing copyrighted material.
Thus far, these lawsuits have almost exclusively focused on BitTorrent users, but new legal action by several major book publishers suggests that Usenet uploaders are also being eyed.
Cengage Learning, John Wiley and Sons, Elsevier and McGraw-Hill recently obtained subpoenas from the U.S. District Court of Columbia, requiring Usenet providers to hand over the personal details of two very active uploaders.
The publishers state that they caught the uploaders “Hockwards” and “Rockhound” sharing hundreds of books. The pair are allegedly connected to Usenet services provided by Usenetserver and XS News, and both companies are now being held responsible for the infringing uploads.
“This information is being provided to you as the Usenet provider responsible for providing Rockhound with the accounts through which the infringement is occurring,” the publishers write in one of their letters.
“Based on the information at our disposal, we have good faith belief that the material uploaded to Usenet by Rockhound is infringing the book publishers’ copyrights. Over the past four months alone, Rockhound has uploaded hundreds of infringing books.”
The book publishers are asking the Usenet providers to hand over all information they have on the two uploaders, including billing records, phone numbers and addresses. In addition, the publishers list hundreds of infringing books that they want the providers to remove from their servers.
TorrentFreak talked to a representative of the book publishers who informed us that they have to protect their rights online, to guarantee that high quality books will continue to be published in the future. Targeting Usenet providers and their users is part of this strategy.
“The publishers are actively monitoring and enforcing their rights on the internet, including on Usenet. Any individual or company that uploads large quantities of digital copies of the publishers’ books for others to download without authorization is a potential target for enforcement,” the representative told us.
“Those individuals and companies are violating the law, no matter where they live and no matter why they are doing it,” the publishers add.
Whether the information obtained through the subpoenas will help the book publishers to identify both users has yet to be seen. It is not uncommon for uploaders to take measures to obfuscate their identities by using prepaid credit cards, VPN services and false contact information.
That said, the action against these Usenet uploaders is significant and in line with developments over the past year. Gradually, we’ve seen anti-piracy efforts begin to include Usenet providers and related services.
Copyright holders, for example, have rapidly increased the number of DMCA takedown notices they send to indexing and hosting services, leading to the shutdown of NZBMatrix. In addition, payment providers such as PayPal are banning Usenet related sites over piracy concerns, causing sites such as Newzbin2 to fold.
Although very rare at the moment, these recent legal actions by book publishers show that Usenet users aren’t immune to legal troubles either.
Update: This article has been updated to make clear that one of the users was a Usenetserver customer. Highwinds is not providing Usenet services.