Newzbin Usenet Indexing Trial: Day One

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After coming under legal threats from the MPAA in 2008, the Usenet indexing site began its defence in London’s High Court yesterday. Newzbin are reporting that the judge appears remarkably switched and they are looking forward to a fair trial.

In 2008, Newzbin received complaints from the MPA (the MPAA’s big brother) who raised questions over the legality of their operations. Later that year Newzbin confirmed that the MPA had chosen to file an injunction against the site. (case background here)

Yesterday the showdown of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation & Others v Newzbin Ltd began before in London’s High Court before Mr Justice Kitchin.

The case began at 10:30 on Monday with the barrister for the plaintiffs making his opening statement. As reported by Newzbin, in a 3 hour speech “mostly being full of how evil we are” the barrister explained what Usenet is along with a description of Newzbin.

The file format originally created by Newzbin – the .NZB – also had its functions explained along with an explanation by the barrister of how they compare to hyperlinks. Newzbin notes that much effort was put into trying to convince the Judge how .NZBs differ from hyperlinks.

Accusations were also leveled at Newzbin’s backend code, which the plaintiffs claim is designed to go looking specifically for copyright works on Usenet.

In contrast to the long speech by the plaintiffs, Newzbin took little time to state that they disputed most of what had been said so far and would address this in the evidence to come.

Later in the day witnesses for the plaintiffs were produced, including representatives from the MPAA-funded Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).

“[They] didn’t have much to say under cross-examination apart from they did a half-assed job analysing our site,” Newzbin reports.

Other witnesses included “some junior lawyers who confirmed they had harvested data from our listings but didn’t bother to check how much of it was actually under any form of copyright.”

According to Newzbin, the “star of the show” was an expert witness who was cross examined for an hour at the end of the day. Apparently he reported that it could be dangerous to auto-open an NZB meta-file file in a browser since it could lead to the user being infected by a virus. Strange guy.

Newzbin indicate they are happy with Judge Justice Kitchin, who they believe is “remarkably on the ball and switched on”. They are confident that this will be a fair trial since Justice Kitchin has already pulled up the plaintiff’s barrister on several points.

“This Judge certainly won’t blindly eat everything he’s told by the MPA,” Newzbin adds. “On the other hand it doesn’t mean he’ll accept our arguments easily either.”

The case continues.


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