Thus begins the countdown to the Death of Usenet. It’s capitalized because it’s important. The High Court in the UK has ruled against famous Usenet index site Newzbin, saying that the site can be held liable for the copyright infringement of its users. Hear that? That’s the sound of the world’s Usenet users screaming “OH DEAR GOD NO!” You knew this day was coming.
For the unfamiliar, Newzbin and sites like it store NZB files, small text files that point the location of actual files. These sites are easily searchable, so you can look for “the wire s01” and all of The Wire’s first season episodes would pop up. You can sorta think of NZB files as torrent files: there’s nothing in the NZB file itself other than directions of where to get actual files.
Doesn’t matter, says the High Court, that constitutes copyright infringement.
No details of the court’s ruling have been publicly released just yet, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Newzbin will be forced to shut down till it no longer offers offending files. Since that’s pretty much the raison d’être of sites like Newzbin…
Incidentally, when I spoke to a lawyer from the Electronic Frontier Foundation at CES last January, he said Usenet as we know (knew?) it had two years to go before lawsuits would kill it. This Newzbin ruling looks to be step one in that slow death.
Smoke ’em if you got ’em.