Usenet & Copyright

The balance between Usenet, copyright and pirated content has always been delicate. 

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Usenet, copyright & piracy: it's complicated.

Usenet providers may now be held responsible for copyright-protected content that’s shared by their users.

At least, that was the ruling that the Regional Court of Hamburg Germany made in July against Usenet provider UseNeXT and its parent company Aviteo. The court found that providers that promote and profit from pirating are responsible – and can be forced to pay damages, though no specific damages were decided on at the time.

The plaintiff in the case was GEMA, a German music rights group that represents some 72,000 artists and has been after UseNeXT since 2006. Their legal adviser, Dr. Tobias Holzmüller, shared his feelings on the ruling:

“Online services like UseNeXT are primarily responsible and cannot hide behind legal privileges. The judges of the Hamburg Court have set an important precedent for claims for Internet piracy related damages.”


Will the Ruling Stick?

Many internet commenters, at places like Reddit, have been quick to point out that this particular Hamburg court is notorious for ruling in favor of copyright claims – and that those rulings are often overturned.

In short, Aviteo and UseNeXT will certainly appeal the decision, and there’s a very good chance they’ll win. It won’t be the first nor the last time something like this has happened.


How Will This Affect You?

If the ruling is upheld, it’ll certainly be a nuisance for Usenet providers. They could be on the line for millions of dollars in damages when copyrighted content is uploaded/downloaded through their service and disrupt their business model altogether.

The folks who upload content might also start having second thoughts.

But if you’re someone who simply downloads (or “leeches”) from Usenet newsgroups, there’s little reason to be concerned. Though it will probably make files harder to find, as more uploaders move to enhanced obfuscation and others quit sharing files altogether.

This will, of course, make the learning curve for Usenet even higher than it is already. Fortunately, Cogipas will be here to keep you up-to-date on the best and latest ways to use Usenet.

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