It’s a matter that is increasingly controversial, but Usenet is often a hotbed for copyright infringement – and here’s another case of such concerns. This one happened in the Netherlands, where a Usenet user has been sentenced by a local court to pay €4,800 ($5,710) because of copyright infringement. The user known as ‘Badfan69’ is a subscriber of the Eweka provider and uploaded almost ten thousand copyrighted files to the Usenet (9,538 more precisely) which led BREIN to persecute him.
BREIN is an anti-piracy Dutch group composed of authors, artists, publishers, producers and distributors of digital content whose name is an acronym for “Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands” and the Dutch word for ‘brain’. This particular case is not exactly the biggest the group has ever fought, but is a good indicator of what the future can hold for file sharing users of the world, and particularly for those that do not comply with the law of the country.
BREIN efforts are aimed at the “art of protecting the creative” and have won several cases in court in the past against a wide range of online pirates acting over Facebook and YouTube, but their main targets are torrent users and infringing Usenet uploaders. Back in 2009, News-Service Europe (NSE) was one of the biggest Usenet providers, but that didn’t contribute a bit to the case it ended up losing in court against the anti-piracy group over copyright content. BREIN’s desires were that the Usenet provider deleted all infringing content, and to the rejoice of the group the court ordered precisely that. In 2011 NSE would cease all operations, but the case is far from being settled since last year the Amsterdam court of appeals ruled in favor of the Usenet provider, which then led BREIN to take the case to the last defense: the Supreme Court.
Regarding this more recent case, in the beginning Eweka refused to hand in its user’s details, claiming that it was a neutral intermediary and would not serve as a piracy police. But after discussion in court, this same entity then decided otherwise, claiming that in cases of copyright infringement Usenet providers must hand over the requested information of their users. The decision didn’t have much to be argued with, especially if we consider that the same has happened with ISPs: according to Dutch law, these organizations can be forced to give the court the personal details of their customers. As such BREIN managed to get the details of the Eweka user and the two parties agreed on a fine, which includes an added €2,000 ($2,379) per day in case ‘Badfan69’ uploads any more infringing content, up to a maximum of €50,000 ($59.482).
The Legality of Usenet
As our FAQ explains, the Usenet is entirely legal but because this type of service is typically ‘hidden’ from the general public and requires providers’ memberships to be accessed, some users do upload illegal content. It works much like torrenting services, which means the sharing of copyrighted files such as music, movies, games, books and much more is strictly illegal. But, for Usenet, if you want to join in to simply answer people’s posts and communicate with other users, then you’re completely fine as there’s nothing wrong in it.
The moment you start accessing copyrighted files, of which free sharing is forbidden, then you become an online pirate and you’ll be chased and most likely caught by entities similar to BREIN in the Netherlands, which will resort to the courts to force companies into handing over your details. Although this case ended up in a monetary fine, different countries have different laws and some can even sentence you to heavier penalties for this, even including time in jail. The moral of the story is this: don’t mess with copyright content anywhere.
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