Usenet Loses Copyright Suit

The record industry has won another copyright lawsuit against a Web company that offered users access to pirated music files. This victory, against -- which offered paid subscribers access to Usenet groups -- follows a string of courtroom verdicts against piracy-enabling sites dating back to the groundbreaking lawsuit against Napster.

Here, Judge Harold Baer of the southern district of New York found that Usent engendered infringement by "targeting infringement-minded users to become subscribers." Among other methods, Usenet allegedly marketed itself "as a safe alternative" to other peer-to-peer programs that had been shuttered after copyright infringement lawsuits. The company charged subscribers between $5 and $19 a month.

Usenet also apparently destroyed several hard drives -- which proved a strategic mistake.

Usenet had attempted to argue that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor provisions protected it from liability. Those provisions say that Web sites aren't generally liable for copyright infringement based on material uploaded by users, but contain exceptions. But Baer ruled that Usenet couldn't rely on the safe harbors if there had been "red flags" indicating that it should have known about copyright infringement on the site. Because evidence that would have shed light on Usenet's knowledge was destroyed, Baer found that the company didn't quality for the safe harbor provisions.

Other companies to have lost copyright infringement lawsuits include Grokster, TorrentSpy and Napster.

But some Web sites have had better luck in court. Veoh, for instance, won a lawsuit brought by Io Group when a judge ruled that Veoh qualified for the DMCA safe harbor provisions.

1 comment about "Usenet Loses Copyright Suit ".
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  1. Russell Cross from Prentke Romich, July 1, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.

    The "Safe Harbor" provisions are critical for freedom of speech - which is NOT the same as saying piracy and copyright infringement are OK. Holding a service provider accountable for the actions of its customers is nothing less than a cheap way of turning the provider into a cheap police force. Tossing out a "Safe Harbor" clause means that the provider has to vet ALL content, which is ludicrous and practically impossible. This would inevitably lead to companies shutting up shop and all internet traffic to come to a halt. Technically, I am in breach of trademarking law if I type "Microsoft" here (as I have done) and fail to note that "Microsoft(R) is a registered trademark of Microsoft(R) Corporation..." (which I have also done.)

    Of course, the more cynical amongst us might comment that going after the providers is easier and more lucrative than tracking down and prosecuting the actual person committing the infringement. Well, some might say that ;)

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