When it comes to file-sharing news, torrent sites usually grab most of the headlines and have done so for the last decade or more. However, a much older method of file-sharing continues in the background, one which facilitates the spread of huge amounts of copyrighted material every day.
Usenet (newsgroups) is a server-based sharing system that usually requires a subscription to access. Users download files (binaries) directly from servers run by their Usenet provider and no peer-to-peer sharing takes place. This means that downloads are very secure, almost immune from snooping, and generally very fast.
Certain prominent cases aside, Usenet providers have largely avoided prosecution but for one company in France the show is now over. Following a complaint filed by anti-piracy outfit SACEM two years ago, France’s largest independent Usenet provider Newsoo has just been shut down by the police.
“I just got back from custody after a search and seizure of Newsoo servers by the judicial police in Strasbourg. I announce therefore that the Newsoo adventure ends immediately and permanently,” Newsoo owner Cedric reports.
While the Newsoo operation was small by Giganews standards, for example, the service was definitely unique. Cedric (known online as Optix) was very public about his passion for his staunchly independent service, which was built up over the years by hand and backed up by personal customer support from the enthusiast.
An earlier thumbs-up from Optix in the Newsoo control room
But like many file-sharing services (and all Usenet providers), Newsoo had its problems with copyrighted content being uploaded to its servers and this week the authorities ran out of patience. In what was reportedly a relatively calm raid, Optix was arrested and his service dismantled.
“As to the ‘practical’ terms of my custody, rest can be assured. The staff were very courteous, kind and sympathetic, and there were no handcuffs and all that. I’m fine,” he explained in a statement.
While questioning whether the shutdown of his service was appropriate, Optix says that it actually came as a relief. Describing Newsoo as an addictive project in which he was responsible for everything, the combination of little time with his family and no financial incentive eventually became too much.
“Revenues were automatically fed back into the activity itself, I took no salary, no dividends, nada, niet, zilch – zero personal enrichment. In other words, everything earned [was always spent on] new machines, new fibers, and the network,” he says.
Newsoo celebrates 10Gbps fibre in 2015
While the raid effectively closed down Newsoo, Optix says the final decision lay with him. He will now place his company into liquidation, cooperate with the inquiry, and try to remember the good times.
“When I began two years ago, I started with barely two poor machines. I gained a lot of knowledge and I enjoyed sharing with you my successes, my problems and now my fall (well that is not really a pleasure),” he told supporters on the Warizens forum.
“It was really great to see that even if people were not fully in the project, most have made the effort to read all of my writings, because there is so much to say on a subject as exciting as this. In short, it is time to say goodbye.”
According to a Zataz report, the raid targeted 650TB of data and resulted in the seizure of 130 hard disks. One newsgroup connected to the service is said to have held 26 million MP3 files.
Optix has been told he will appear in court June 21, 2016.