The RIAA Attacks Usenet

Basking in glory after orchestrating a record punishment for a petty file-sharer in the US, the RIAA takes its legal campaign to the next level. Many may want newsgroups to stay under the radar but it's too late - major labels have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Usenet.com and it won't be going away.

In an ideal world, people would not talk about Usenet. In an ideal world there would be no such things as copyright infringement lawsuits. Sadly, we do not live in an ideal world.

Today we simply have to talk about Usenet and we have to talk about lawsuits.

Major record labels – Arista, Atlantic, BMG, Capitol, Caroline, Elektra, Interscope, LaFace, Maverick, Sony BMG, UMG, Virgin, Warner Bros. and Zomba have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Usenet.com.

According to Billboard, the complaint filed in the District Court in New York states that Usenet.com provides access to millions of copyright infringing files and, with a nod towards the Grokster Decision, apparently “touts its service as a haven for those seeking pirated content.”

During the Grokster court case, it was ruled that even if a service or tool has substantial non-infringing uses, its owners would be liable for the infringing activities of its customers, should it be deemed that they encouraged their customers to commit copyright infringement. The complaint says that Usenet.com encourages its customers to commit copyright infringement and furthermore, facilitates such actions with its infrastructure.

Therefore it’s no surprise that the lawsuit seems to hang on statements allegedly made by Usenet.com to their customers, claiming that they told them their service is “the best way to get ‘free’ music now that ‘file sharing websites are getting shut down.”

Usenet.com does state that it’s possible to get increased levels of privacy by using their extra ‘anonymous’ service: “Shh… Quiet! We believe it’s no one’s business but your own what you do on the Internet or in Usenet! We don’t log your activity. We don’t track your downloads, and neither can your ISP when you use Secure-Tunnel.com privacy package.” However, helping to ensure the privacy of your customers does not equal encouragement to commit copyright infringement and right at this moment, there doesn’t appear to be any other text on the site that would make Usenet.com fall foul of the Grokster Decision. More details should follow in due course.

The lawsuit states that despite repeated requests by the labels for Usenet.com to remove infringing content, Usenet.com continued to fill its servers with infringing material from the Usenet network and then charges its users for access. It’s claimed that many of the groups offered by Usenet.com have no other use other than to disseminate copyright works and are “explicitly dedicated to copyright infringement.”

The labels want Usenet.com to admit they are committing copyright infringement with a view to obtaining an injunction and damages. To date, Usenet.com has refused to remove content or discontinue offering certain newsgroups.

It will be interesting to see if other Usenet providers come out in support of Usenet.com.

Further updates to follow.

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