RIAA Wins Copyright Ruling Against Usenet.com

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The Recording Industry Association of America has won a summary judgement against Usenet access provider Usenet.com on a wealth of copyright infringement charges, including direct and vicarious copyright infringement, as well as inducement of infringement. Although the judgement is hardly a surprise, Usenet.com had been using every means at its disposal to forestall the inevitable, including sending employees out of the country to make them inaccessible, destroying data, and failing to turn over materials.

“This decision is another example of courts recognizing the value of copyrighted music and taking action against companies and individuals who are engaging in wide scale infringement,” the RIAA’s executive VOP and general counsel Steven Marks said in a statement. “We hope that other bad actors who are engaging in similar activity will take note of this decisive opinion.”

Usenet.com is a commercial access provider to the age-old Usenet messaging system, a widespread store-and-forward system that predates the Web which was originally intended for discussion groups. While a handful of Usenet groups (particularly on somewhat esoteric or technical topics) have remained active, over the years many Usenet groups become havens illegal postings of copyrighted works and other illegal materials. The RIAA brought suit against Usenet.com in October of 2007 in a case that, in theory, could mandate the shutdown of the Usenet system, rather than just the provider Usenet.com. Unlike BitTorrent and P2P applications, Usenet uses a store-and-forward approach between servers; as such, the judge Harold Baer refused to allow Usenet.com a defense as a “safe harbor” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) because the company plainly hosted the infringing material on its servers and could exercise control over the content.

In issuing a summary judgement, Judge Baer has turned the case over to a court magistrate who will determine penalties and future actions.

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