It’s safe to say that I shed no tears yesterday when, for all intents and purposes, The Pirate Bay ceased to be. Suffice it to say that if Usenet comes under attack next I will not be a happy camper. (I know, I know: The first rule of Usenet is not to talk about Usenet, but bear with the story for a minute.) The RIAA just won a lawsuit against usenet.com, which, as you might guess, is a premium Usenet provider.
The court case, in the Southern District of New York, found usenet.com guilty of “direct, contributory, and vicarious infringement.” And perhaps more worrying is that usenet.com cannot defend itself using the ol’ Sony Betamax decision. In a nutshell that says that so long as there is a significant, non-infringing use of a device/service you can’t sue it into oblivion.
For those not in the know, Usenet, which is as old as the dinosaurs, can be described, in a very dumbed-down way, as a big, decentralized message board, but one where you can attach files. I’ll leave it at that.
Of course, this is “only” a district court’s opinion, so make of it what you will. And it’s worth stressing, of course, that usenet.com != Usenet. (For the record, I use newsdemon.com, and my brother uses giganews.com. They’re pretty comparable based on our unscientific “let’s see how long it takes to download SomeFile” tests.)
The second rule of Usenet…