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Usenet.com May Find Safe Harbor From RIAA lawsuit 126

Posted by Zonk
from the quit-stepping-on-the-little-guy-biggie dept.
Daneal writes "Ars Technica has some interesting analysis of the RIAA's lawsuit against Usenet.com. There's reason to believe that Usenet.com — and most other Usenet providers — could qualify for protection under the DMCA's Safe Harbor provision. 'The DMCA's Safe Harbor provision provides protection for ISPs from copyright infringement lawsuits as long as they take down offending material once they are served with a notice of infringement. "Whether the Safe Harbor applies is the central legal question that is going to be raised," EFF senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann told Ars. An RIAA spokesperson tells Ars that the group has issued "many" takedown notices to Usenet.com, but von Lohmann says that the volume of takedown notices isn't what counts. "The DMCA's Safe Harbor makes it very clear," von Lohmann said. "The number of notices doesn't matter as long as you take the infringing content down."'"
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Usenet.com May Find Safe Harbor From RIAA lawsuit

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  • Seem to remember... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Romancer (19668) <(moc.roodshtaed) (ta) (recnamor)> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @03:57PM (#21016203) Journal
    I thought that they refused to take down the content in the last article about this?
    • by Romancer (19668)
      From the last article still on the front page of slashdot as I scroll down:

      "Usenet.com has been refusing the labels requests"
      • by Romancer (19668) <(moc.roodshtaed) (ta) (recnamor)> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:04PM (#21016311) Journal
        And from the last article itself:

        "To date, Usenet.com has refused to remove content or discontinue offering certain newsgroups."
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Arent binaries in most usenet groups removed automatically after a certain number of days whether or not a takedown has been issued? This is usually determined by the volume of messages and storage of the particular provider. So , is there a time limit on how fast you MUST remove stuff once a takedown has been issued?
          I ask , because the way usenet works , stuff doesnt stay on the server forever.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by anagama (611277)
            Stuff doesn't stay online forever, but Usenet.com offers something like 150 days of retention, which is quite a while. Other usenet servers offer even more, e.g., Giganews offers 200 days on binaries and up to 1500 days on text.

            The Wired article [wired.com] has a link to the actual lawsuit in PDF format. It actually makes an interesting read.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by RulerOf (975607)
              I hit up Usenet.com a couple of days after the lawsuit notice was filed, the site wasn't specific on their retention rates, only offering the bullshit figure of "1 to 3 months of binary retention." Having experience with usenet, I would never purchase service from a provider with such vague figures on exactly what they offer. That said, the parent might have a point that if there's a grace period during which content must be removed, and happens to be longer than their retention rates, the labels' lobbyis
              • by anagama (611277)
                The exhibits to the lawsuit filing show their ad for 150 days of retention. They probably changed things post-lawsuit.
    • by SkankinMonkey (528381) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:01PM (#21016257)
      It's worth noting that Usenet.com does not own/operate usenet, they are just a download service for usenet. They cannot remove things from usenet, they can only prohibit downloads of certain content from their servers, I'd imagine.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Romancer (19668)
        From this article:

        "If Usenet.com can show that it complies with the DMCA by removing access to infringing content and by suspending the accounts of repeat offenders, it may be enough to provide it with protection under the hosting and linking provisions of the DMCA."
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Barny (103770)
          Hrmm, correct me if I am wrong (usenet servers in aus are a little odd/different than US ones I think) but doesn't the news server only hold the data for like 30 days or so? So they do take the information down, within 30 days of being issued with a take down notice?
          • by allcar (1111567)
            That varies widely from provider to provider. A typical ISP, if they bother to offer a Usenet server at all, may retain binary content for just a few days. On the other hand, some of the commercial news servers have much longer retention periods. GigaNews [giganews.com], for instance, now boasts a binary retention period of 200 days.
            • by Barny (103770)
              It was just a thought, happen to know what the time period requirements are for DMCA take downs?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Shoeler (180797) *

        It's worth noting that Usenet.com does not own/operate usenet, they are just a download service for usenet. They cannot remove things from usenet, they can only prohibit downloads of certain content from their servers, I'd imagine.

        As a former INN server admin from 1994 to about 2001, that's bunk I'm sorry to say. I resisted modding you down (even have the points for it!) just to clear the air here. If you stream news to someone else, your removal of an article affects your downstream servers as well. It's quite easy to remove an article - always has been.

    • by guruevi (827432) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:15PM (#21016485) Homepage
      That's RIAA FUD. From experience in a webhosting company, RIAA will just send you a notice that there was illegal music found and just give a listing of ALL similar content (like: delete all MP3's although only one is actually infringing) on the site even though it might not be infringing (copyright law DOES have exceptions) or the site might have been hacked before.

      They probably refuse to take down content that is legally protected or that is legally not a full work and even if they take it down, within a few minutes another version might be up again so it sounds like the RIAA is going to have to send a lot of notices to take every single Usenet post down.
  • USENET? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:02PM (#21016269) Journal

    They wanna take down USENET?

    And they're gonna target a single NNTP provider to do it?

    OMFG, USENET was P2P before P2P was invented. It's so distributed, diffuse, and attributionless that it's practically untouchable.

    Who keeps picking out windmills for RIAA to tilt at? Their legal attack strategist needs to put down the crack pipe and step away from his desk.

    Seriously...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Pootworm (1000883)
      No, they want to take down Usenet.com. Slow down there Speed Racer. Breathe.....breeeeeaaathe....
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SpacePunk (17960)
        That's probably because they believe that usenet.com IS the usenet. Just like AOL is the internet!
    • Re:USENET? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @05:32PM (#21017489)

      Some ISPs don't provide newsgroup access anymore, make it a pain to get or have limits on uploading or downloading binaries. RIAA pressure could make this the norm.

      Services like Usenet.com and Giganews are quite possibly vulnerable, as we see from this lawsuit. Maybe they'll try to go for customer logs next?

      It may not be possible to take down Usenet, but it is quite possible to make it a little more difficult or risky than it is now for the average college student to access binaries.

      Although I think the real point of this is to instill paranoia. RIAA lawsuits are a more than anything else a scare tactic and an effective PR campaign designed to instill fear in casual downloaders. That may be why they're going after Usenet.com instead of Giganews or similar sites, to instill some confusion and so that the aforementioned college student thinks he's at risk of a lawsuit himself if he downloads from Usenet (no matter what provider he uses.) My theory at least, take it with a grain of salt.

      • They might (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Maybe they'll try to go for customer logs next?"

        They might, but for downloaders, it might not do that much good.

        Remember that the RIAA won their last case because the woman "made available" certain songs on P2P. But if you download, you aren't making something available, and thus less likely to raise the ire of a retarded jury in kansas.

        Plus, if a nntp provider is smart, they won't keep logs beyond the amount a user has downloaded.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Simulant (528590)
      It's not all that distributed where the binaries are concerned. Unless it's your primary business, you don't carry the binaries groups. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of USENET piracy could be disrupted by taking down less than a dozen USENET providers.

      Bummer. But it was bound to happen. The binaries hosts have gotten a bit too blatant with their marketing and have made USENET binary downloads a far easier endeavor than it used to be. The critical mass of users which triggers copyright lawsuit
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Snotman (767894)
        So, are you saying that NNTP will not allow you to attach a binary file to a post in any other area of usenet but the binaries groups? That sounds wrong to me, but it might be the case. binaries seems to be an arbitrary label on a set of groups. I do not see any reason why other groups/channels could not be created to circumvent this.
        • by Simulant (528590)
          That's not what I mean. You can always attach a binary. But... you won't be able to do so in a way that the vast majority of people who want the binary will easily find it.

          If the large binary providers go down, it will be back to the days of scattered binaries, ever changing group names, and, any time a group gets too big, your provider will drop it.

          It will no longer (or won't become) be a distribution method for the masses.
          • Easynews.com global USENET Search.

            It doesn't need to be in popular groups. If it's on there, the global search will find it. It can even be seperated into 30 different groups.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) *

        It's not all that distributed where the binaries are concerned. Unless it's your primary business, you don't carry the binaries groups. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of USENET piracy could be disrupted by taking down less than a dozen USENET providers.

        You could. At least in the U.S.

        On a lark, I went and drew a little back-of-the-envelope map of Usenet based on a random selection of Path headers from some binary postings. It's not scientific or anything (although I'm sure somebody could probably write a little Perl script that would do it to a few thousand messages and produce a nice peering map), but you start to see who the big players are pretty quickly.

        I don't even think you'd need a dozen. If you could force maybe four or five major U.S. sites to di

    • by Alsee (515537)
      Who keeps picking out windmills for RIAA to tilt at?

      I hear they hired a guy named Don Quixote.

      -
    • Who keeps picking out windmills for RIAA to tilt at? Their legal attack strategist needs to put down the crack pipe and step away from his desk.

      Seriously...
      --


      The RIAA's biggest mistake is picking up the role of angry bull elephant. When an angry bull elephant starts attacking the village with intent to cause as much harm as possible, the villagers are quick to;
      1 Run and hide.
      2 Put up defenses.
      3 Directly attack the threat.

      In short.. Number 1 is trade offline with the sneaker net. USB drives, USB music p
      • by nEJC76 (904161)

        Even the congress is looking at changing copyright law.

        Could you please supply a reference for this statement? TIA

        • Could you please supply a reference for this statement? TIA

          The top entry is responses to questions from Slashdot.. Nice!

          Rep. Boucher:

          I am in the process of drafting comprehensive legislation which will
          reaffirm the fair use rights of the users of information and create a
          better balance between the copyright owners, who currently dominate the
          Congressional debates on intellectual property measures, and the users
          of copyrighted information.


          http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/bparchive?year=2001&post=2 [upenn.edu]
      • Funny thing was, the last time my lawn service guy came by to cut the grass 2-3 weeks ago, he had a visit from a friend in the neighborhood with whom he trades movies. Guy drove up, they swapped some cash for a CD, and he drove away.

        How's the RIAA or MPAA going to stop that nonsense?
    • "They wanna take down USENET?"

      Usenet.com? Yes. NNTP? no. The real problem with Usenet.com is that they provide a web gateway to access their newsgroups. To a n00b, the web browser is *THE* internets and how all the tubes connect together via The Google. Most other usenet providers avoid the web gateway and require the old fashion NNTP client. By not providing a web gateway and not providing a web-based (searchable) index of their content, other commercial NNTP hosts avoid the potential Usenet.com is
  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:04PM (#21016303) Homepage
    Since Usenet just publishes other people's stuff, don't they (at least somewhat) qualify for common carrier classification (similar to phone companies) in that the the content is someone else's?

    Along these lines, what about Google/other search engines that show "copyrighted" content - either in the snippet or in their cache?
    • by Kjella (173770)
      Since Usenet just publishes other people's stuff, don't they (at least somewhat) qualify for common carrier classification (similar to phone companies) in that the the content is someone else's?

      Along these lines, what about Google/other search engines that show "copyrighted" content - either in the snippet or in their cache?


      The very short answer: No. They're protected by the DMCA safe harbor protections but they are not legally common carriers, which is probably a good thing since it carries a bunch of regu
    • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:17PM (#21016517) Journal
      You're missing the point. (And the Ars Technica article mentions the point and then proceeds to ignore it.)

      The issue is that Usenet.com blatantly (from a common-sense point of view, whether it's legally meaningful I have no idea) markets themselves as a way to illegally obtain copyrighted content. As someone put it yesterday, if the phone companies ran commercials advertising "Telephones -- the best way to plan your terrorist activities!" that would cut into their ability to claim common carrier status as a defense. Same thing for Safe Harbor.

      Incidentally, didn't we have a story a few months ago complaining that the MPAA and RIAA weren't suing usenet providers, and how that proved some conspiracy theory? If that faction is relieved at this new development, I haven't seen them mention it.

      • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:26PM (#21016639) Homepage Journal
        Yes, those ads are part of the problem, because it hurts their Safe Harbor defense (see my post which quotes the section of the DMCA, further down in the thread). But only insofar as they might show that Usenet.com was benefiting directly from illegal content. And I'm not sure they do that, because the ads aren't that blatant. They basically just suggest that they have a rigorous privacy policy, etc. It's not totally damning.

        Where I think they get into trouble is that, in order to claim Safe Harbor, they basically need to be able to claim "hey, somebody put that up onto our system, we didn't know it was infringing, we didn't even know it was there!" And it's a bit tough to do that with Usenet, seeing as how it's about 99% binaries and anyone who's ever opened up the alt.binaries.* hierarchy can tell that it's got a lot of bootlegs and warez in it.

        It would be a little comical to see a whole bunch of seasoned network engineers and other greybeards try to claim that they had no idea there was copyrighted material on Usenet. ("Warez? On my Usenet?") But that's sort of the position they have to put themselves in, in order to get a successful 512(c) defense.

        They also have to show that in the past they've complied with DMCA takedown orders against content that a copyright holder has pointed out as being infringing, which it seems like they weren't doing. That may also be a problem, although maybe they can argue that they didn't have the capability to delete articles (after all, if they took them out of their store, would they just have come in on a feed from another site that they peer with?). It might be difficult to get a judge to swallow that, though.

        I think they're in trouble, but I'm not sure exactly how much trouble just yet.
        • by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @05:41PM (#21017641)
          It would be a little comical to see a whole bunch of seasoned network engineers and other greybeards try to claim that they had no idea there was copyrighted material on Usenet. ("Warez? On my Usenet?") But that's sort of the position they have to put themselves in, in order to get a successful 512(c) defense.

          Why is that a barrier to a successful 512(c) defense? If the host, Usenet.com in this case, services all take down notices in a reasonable and timely fashion and makes reasonable efforts to accommodate copyright holders (the court decides what is and is not reasonable) then have they not fulfilled their obligation under the law? How would they know if there was a copy of Eric Clapton's greatest hits on their network? Sure they could search for it if they wanted to but are they required to have automated agents searching all of the time for everything that might be copyrighted? Is that reasonable or even feasible? Certainly not, it is the responsibility of the copyright holder to locate infringement and take the legally required step of sending a take down notice. As long as there is a reasonable system in place to service requests from copyright holders, then the content host has fulfilled its obligations and should be able to take refuge in the safe harbor.
      • by Kingrames (858416)
        If telephone companies advertised themselves as the "best way to plan a terrorist attack" it would be because somebody decided that that was the best marketing strategy. and if so, it would be legal.

        When dealing with a massive corporation shoveling buckets of money into the hands of the senators, the "won't somebody think of the children" argument is remarkably hard to hear.
      • by Snotman (767894)
        I am sorry, but I took a cursory look into Usenet.com(splash page and 'Why Usenet.com?') and I do not see advertisements to download copyrighted material. It seems that they take privacy seriously by protecting a persons anonymity; why is that crime? Does the fact that you cash make you a criminal because you can't track the transaction back to an individual? I expect you use credit cards so that all your purchases are recorded, otherwise we all should raise an eyebrow to your private behavior. I guess in y
        • by tkinnun0 (756022)
          Granted, it's pretty clean, but Are you new to Usenet? [usenet.com] contains this gem: "Usenet contains millions of mp3s, videos, software, movies, videos, games, and much more you can download for free! We also have all the text groups for those of you who like to engage in deep discussions."

          Pretty blatant, if you ask me.
          • by Otter (3800)
            Even without that, anyone familiar with Usenet understands what a package of access to all binary groups, long retention of binaries, high-speed servers and encryption is for. No one uses Usenet for "your own artistic creations, from your latest political rant, or pictures of your goldfish". And despite the grandparent's sniffing about how anyone who doesn't use a special Usenet provider would be just as happy living in a police state, no real user is paying extra for super-encryption for posts to his unend
    • by yabos (719499)
      If they're not taken down for all the kiddy pr0n & all that other illegal stuff on usenet then I fail to see how the RIAA can shut it down.
  • The rub. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) * <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:09PM (#21016377) Homepage Journal

    To be honest, I don't know how Usenet.com can not qualify for DMCA protection, since it's exactly the type of service that the Safe Harbor exception is supposed to protect. The only thing that seems like it could harm Usenet.com is their advertising, which does veer a little into "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" territory. However, damning a company because it says it respects users' privacy, without actually advocating any type of criminal activity, seems like pretty terrible precedent, and I can only hope (although at this point I have little faith) that a judge will see it similarly.

    I think the mention in the Ars article about Safe Harbor being related to "transitory network communications" is irrelevant here. Transitory network communications is covered under 512(a) of the OCILLA (which is part of the DMCA); the portion that I would expect Usenet.com to seek protection under is 512(c), "Information Residing on Systems or Networks at Direction of Users".

    You can read the relevant section here [cornell.edu], but the significant portion, IMO, is:

    A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, if the service provider--
    (A)(i) does not have actual knowledge that the material or an activity using the material on the system or network is infringing;
    (ii) in the absence of such actual knowledge, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent; or
    (iii) upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material;
    (B) does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity; and (C) upon notification of claimed infringement as described in paragraph (3), responds expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity.

    The major things they're going to have to avoid are that they "had actual knowledge" that the material was infringing (which might be tough -- I mean, anybody who opens up alt.binaries.movies can probably tell pretty quickly that it's full of bootlegs) and that they didn't receive a "financial benefit directly attributable" to the infringing activity. I think that second one is actually a little easier (for Usenet.com) than the former. And, of course, they have to successfully argue/explain that they don't really have the power to remove articles from Usenet, because of the nature of the network -- it would probably help their case if they started at least deleting articles from their spool/store when they receive a complaint.

    I suspect that this may lead to a shakedown in the Usenet provider world, if Usenet.com loses. At the very least, the big providers might have to do more in order to maintain a veneer of plausible deniability (deleting some of the more obviously movie and/or warez related groups, perhaps), or move their servers out of the U.S.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It goes farther than wink wink, nudge nudge if this page is any indication: http://www.usenet.com/articles/free_download.htm [usenet.com]
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:35PM (#21016715) Homepage Journal

        It goes farther than wink wink, nudge nudge if this page is any indication:

        http://www.usenet.com/articles/free_download.htm [usenet.com]
        Humm. Yeah, that's a lot more blatant than they were making it out to be in the Ars article. In fact, what the hell, guys? I know it has a copyright date of 2005 on it, but even if that had been written in 1995 it still would have been a little much.

        To wit: (in case they take the page down, which I sure would if I were them)

        Where Can You Get Free Downloads These Days?
        Well, we must admit that it is getting harder and harder to find anything free on the Internet these days. File sharing websites are getting shut down, spam is all over the net and free download options are getting thinner by the day. So what is the Internet user who loves to download stuff for free to do in this situation? There is one solution which has existed for a while but not everyone may be informed of just yet. This solution is called Usenet, also known as The Usenet Experience. It is an underground because it is not a website that anyone can randomly access by doing a search in Google, Yahoo, or AltaVista. It is somewhat hidden and restricted because not everyone has access to the free download areas, called newsgroup.
        So How Do You Get to the Place with Free Downloads?
        It is easier than you may think. The place which soon may be the only one that offers free downloads is available to everyone through a Usenet service provider company, such as Usenet.com. In order to start downloading all you want, you need to have Internet access (which you probably have already since you're reading this) and a Usenet account. Once you join Usenet.com, you can access the Usenet newsgroups and start downloading all you want without paying an additional cent. Tired of busy file sharing programs such as KaZaa? Then Usenet is the place for you. It's a place that has it all and where you can download it all. Usenet has a much wider selection than any of the other file sharing programs and it is available to you to use 24 x 7, no mater who's online or who isn't. The files are all hosted on the provider company's servers and it is available to all users to view and download.
        What Exactly Can You Download in Usenet?
        Anything and everything. Literally. There are movies, mp3s, cartoons, wallpapers, sounds, videos, pictures, warez, games, software and much more. The files (also known as "binaries" in Usenet) are organized by subject in the so called "newsgroups," which makes it really easy for everyone from the inexperienced user to the expert to find what they are looking for.
        The hell with it: They're pretty fucked.
        • by g00nsquad (971393)
          The only part of that excerpt that could be interpreted as usenet.com encouraging copyright infringement - that I can see - is the word 'warez' in the last paragraph. The rest is simply advertising the viability of Usenet as a medium for obtaining free (read: not necessarily pirated) files.

          Looks like the tired old argument about free files equating or not equating to pirated files is still alive and kicking.
        • by vsync64 (155958)

          It is an underground because it is not a website that anyone can randomly access by doing a search in Google, Yahoo, or AltaVista.
          ...so of course the first thing these guys do is put up a "website"[sic] talking about it?
        • by Snotman (767894)
          Hmmm, are you familiar with something called public domain? Maybe you live in a world where everything has a copyright, but I don't. Copyrights expire and for good reason; so the public can take the work and expand it which can enrich the market more so than the original work - think Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. So, is this advertising to pirates? I don't think so. Although, when a pirate sees the above article, that is what they read. Please take your myopic blinders off and remember that the world has been
          • Hmmm, are you familiar with something called public domain? Maybe you live in a world where everything has a copyright, but I don't. Copyrights expire and for good reason; so the public can take the work and expand it which can enrich the market more so than the original work - think Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. So, is this advertising to pirates? I don't think so. Although, when a pirate sees the above article, that is what they read. Please take your myopic blinders off and remember that the world has been creating content since the beginning of recorded history, not just the twentieth century.

            Seriously?

            Do you have any idea how much public domain content has actually been digitized? I suspect that if you took all the PD music and video that's around in digital form, combined it with all the text, you still wouldn't get close to the capacity of a big Usenet site. (Keep in mind the entire Library of Congress -- which is mostly filled with post-1923 content -- is estimated to be about 20TB; a big newsfeed might take in 3-4TB a day.)

            Yes, there is a lot of old stuff around. (In fact, I'm a rather ard

        • by Alsee (515537)
          If you clip out the single word "warez", there is nothing wrong with that text. But yeah, "warez" appears to be a real problem. Hmmm... I'm not sure "warez" would apply to advocating infringement of any RIAA copyrights though.

          By the way, here's a link [dance-industries.com] I happen to like to another "Where Can You Get Free Downloads These Days?" place. I'm sure most of those free downloads are also on Usenet somewhere or other, but the site I linked is much better organized and has rating systems and other helpful stuff. I foun
        • even if that had been written in 1995 it still would have been a little much.

          In 1995, that advertisment makes a lot of sense, as not-for-profit copyright infringment was non-actionable.

          IANAL

          • by Kadin2048 (468275) *
            Sure, but the fact that they're advertising it as one of the benefits of a service that they charge for might make it difficult to call it "not for profit." Although perhaps you could argue that the infringement per se wasn't committed for gain (the actual uploading of the file by the originating user), the provider is certainly benefiting by it. Even in 1995 I think any decent lawyer would have had a stroke if they were asked if that was a good idea.

            Heck, even warez sites and BBSes in 1995 were less obviou
    • The only thing that seems like it could harm Usenet.com is their advertising, which does veer a little into "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" territory.

      Along with every single high-speed broadband provider on earth.

    • There's another section of the DMCA that offers a different "safe harbor":

      (a) TRANSITORY DIGITAL NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS- A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider's transmitting, routing, or providing connections for, material through a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, or by reason of the intermediate and transie

    • USENET.COM should be considered a common carrier (like a telco) rather than an ISP. They provide access to a service provided by others only, and do not provide additional value in the process. They charge a fee for this access.

      Why doesn't the MAFIAA just sue all the telcos-- without them, nobody would be able to download unauthorized copies of their material!?

      I'm sure USENET.COM will lose the battle, but it is really sick that this is the case.
    • What we might end up with, if we're lucky, is a Usenet devoid of anything even remotely related to the RIAA.

      That, my friends, would be a good thing.

      At this point -- seriously -- I'm actually quite interested in knowing whether or not an artist I am interested in purchasing an album from is with a label that is part of the RIAA.

      By promoting the downloading of commercial-type stuff, filesharing apps and sites are just "working" the same marketing machine set up by these huge organizations.

      Better to get rid o
  • 1) Usenet != usenet.com, which is merely a host. The RIAA is not attacking a protocol. They are suing a company that hosts a lot of NNTP traffic, some of which may be infringing on copyright.

    2) It's fscking hilarious that the DCMA may wind up being used against the RIAA. Kudos to Ars for thinking up that one.

    3) If the DCMA doesn't help, maybe the supreme court ruling stating that an ISP is not responsible for user generated content will. Details here. [dotcomeon.com] (Note: The article isn't about copyright, i

    • by geekoid (135745)
      ", maybe the supreme court ruling stating that an ISP is not responsible for user generated content will."

      The DMCA specifically says that. this isn't new and it's what protects google et. al.
    • In response to your points:

      1) True, but there are not really all that many major Usenet servers of this type. It won't be difficult to kill them off, much as we've seen with various commercial P2P developers (Napster, Grokster), torrent trackers, etc.

      2) I wouldn't pin my hopes on it. There's a number of hurdles and I doubt that usenet.com will get over them.

      3) You're thinking of 47 USC 230. It doesn't apply in copyright cases by its own language. And it is quite distinct from the idea of a common carrier (w
  • So, if I post something using another provider that a music label asks usenet.com to takedown and usenet.com does it, won't people leave them because they are taking down stuff that I post and move to another nntp provider? But won't usenet.com go out of business because they will lose customers?
    • by BUL2294 (1081735)
      Or better yet... If I post something on Usenet (using an NNTP provider that's not usenet.com) and usenet.com takes that post down as a request of the RIAA/MPAA, could I sue usenet.com?
  • But they are just a carrier, how are they going to 'take down' a file? ( beyond blocking access to the entire group )
    • But they are just a carrier, how are they going to 'take down' a file? ( beyond blocking access to the entire group )

      Usenet.com is a host, not a carrier. It advertises easy access to pirated content. It is Usenet.com that may be going down, like Grokster.

      • by nurb432 (527695)
        Doesnt usenet.com just offer access to netnews? If so, then the are a carrier, just a ATT is, or any ISP.
    • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @05:55PM (#21017841)

      But they are just a carrier, how are they going to 'take down' a file?
      By issuing a cancel message for the Message-IDs composing the "file" (but with a Distribution: local header as that is as far as their responsibility extends).

      Of course, that assumes the party issuing the takedown notice knew to cite the offending articles by Message-ID. The canceled messages will not re-propagate to the server. The poster, anywhere else in the world, could still repost under a new Message-ID (automatically generated for every posting). The cancel messages can even contain the takedown notice in each message body, which would be readable in the newsgroup named "control" and/or in "control.cancel" if it is present.

      They wouldn't necessarily even have to cryptographically sign the cancels since they are local, though it might be wise to prevent fellow users of the same server wildly canceling other articles.

      These organizations could technically send out their own cancel messages with unrestricted distribution, though I'm not familiar with the current state of the art in preventing forged cancels. If spammers have truly lost interest in Usenet, it may have come to the point where cancel messages are generally ignored.
      • By issuing a cancel message for the Message-IDs composing the "file" (but with a Distribution: local header as that is as far as their responsibility extends).

        I think that's incorrect.

        First, cancellation messages have a tortured history and generally aren't honored.

        Second, the issue is with content on usenet.com's own servers. All they would need to do is to null out the body of each message and leave the header information (for administrative purposes, etc.). This is indeed what a number of providers act
        • by HTH NE1 (675604)

          First, cancellation messages have a tortured history and generally aren't honored.

          Well as I said they only have to work on one server, and that's on the server that's issuing them, and if done in response to a DMCA notice, it would be the administrators of that server issuing them, so they can easily honor them. In fact, if their own administrative tools had no effect on their own server, that would be incompetence.

          They have no responsibility to remove the content from any other servers, and the Distribution: local header would ensure that the cancel message doesn't leave their server

          • by HTH NE1 (675604)

            I believe altering the body of a message while maintaining the same Message-ID would be a violation of RFC 1036.

            There is a technical reason: blanking out the body in the news spool while retaining the headers risks propagating the altered message to other servers. Deleting the message completely from the server could allow it to re-propagate to that server, making it look like the site failed to comply with the notice. A local administrative cancel won't propagate anything, so there's no altered message competing with the altered message in the flood, and a record remains to prevent it from re-propagating to the s

      • by flonker (526111)
        Cancel messages generally aren't honored, due to HipCrime and company [wikipedia.org]. And DMCA takedowns must be sent to a specific person (or corp.) NoCeMs [cm.org] were the new cancel messages used for retro-moderation last time I looked, which was quite a while ago.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:58PM (#21017029) Journal
    to force ISP's to filter the entire fscking Internet, one service at a time?
    This is going to be interesting. If Usenet.com goes down, next will be NNTP service filters on every ISP in the US, and then by association, such efforts will be made in the rest of the world. Perhaps it might not work in Russia for fear of being mistaken for a spammer, but in the rest of the world, the US government and the **AA will push to have the entire Internet filtered...

    The next step? To filter all your email, IM, and VoIP traffic as well, and in fact any method of sharing data. Sounds like tin foil hat stuff, but that seems to be the writing on the wall. If the **AA has those filters in place, guess who will be using them? Why the NSA of course. Any bets on whether the **AA are digging so deep into their wallets on the legal battles because the NSA is promising to refund some portion of the cost, if they are not already secretly funding them from money that went missing in Iraq?

    yeah, sounds a bit crazy, but after the lies that have been discovered lately, it would NOT surprise me.
    • Eventually, it'll be a protocol war. As fast as the **AA sues over some protocol or app, everyone will switch to a newer, harder to detect/break/poison protocol or app. It'll be like copy protection - the monopolists roll out a new "unbreakable" tech, the real people roll out a break for it a few days later.
      But it'll be reversed: the monopolists roll out a new litigation tech battlefront, and the real people roll out a new tech before the first lawsuit goes on the docket.
      Like the copy protection wars,
  • So, how far does this go? If someone makes a torrent that has a txt file in it that says they'll stop seeding if someone files a takedown, does that mean they'm safe? Or just a file that says that in a shared folder?

    Does this also protect torrent trackers? I thought isohunt had to take down US trackers because of riaa pressure. Does this protect them too (as I know they have a takedown option)?

    I would have thought this was the first defense any of the trackers would have used. Why would it apply only here,
    • So, how far does this go?

      Read 17 USC 512 carefully (it's not as well-organized as one would prefer) making careful note of various cross-references, definitions (which may be in section 101 as well as 512), etc. and also take a look at the page here [copyright.gov].

      Further, I'd take a look at cases where 512 was an issue, including Napster, Ellison, and Perfect 10.

      The safe harbor is useful, but it takes work to qualify for it, and it doesn't apply to everything or everyone.
  • So after reading this, how many 12-18 year olds who've never heard of Usenet are going to say "Another place to pirate stuff from? SWEET DEAL!"
  • by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @05:17PM (#21017271) Journal
    ...someone who put their own stuff on usenet and then someone comes along and falsely claims copyright infringment to the ISP and teh ISP takes it down.

    Does the genuine originator ever get notified and given an opportunity to counter?
    • At a certain time about 10 years ago, my 'net connection was used by "persons unknown" to upload a binary file to a newsgroup. It was noticed, complained about--presumably by the copyright holder--and I was threatened with having my newsgroup account terminated. So yeah, the original poster gets notified, or at least did.
      </anecdote>
  • by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @05:18PM (#21017283)
    I see a lot of people saying "They don't host the files!"

    This is absolutely wrong. They may not be the initial point that the file enters the network, but they DO host the files on their own servers there -entire- time that it's available to their customers. Every usenet provider does this. It's how the entire system works.

    Each provider can choose which groups they will bother to handle (it used to be common for free services not to handle the 'alt.' newsgroups) and they -can- remove anything from that server that they choose. It wouldn't be fun to find exactly what the RIAA has requested a takedown for without specific post IDs, but it can be done.

    Places that don't host the files are merely indexing services (like newzbin.com) and truly do not host the files. It's just a list of the post IDs that you need to grab what you are looking for from usenet.

    I've never heard of a usenet provider that has removed partial content... Only entire groups, and never (that I've heard of) because someone asked them to.

    So while it is theoretically possible for this law to protect them, they've never complied with it and it won't do them a bit of good.

    It won't do the RIAA any good, either, though... Hundreds or thousands of servers all over the world mirror the same information from 3 to 200 days... They would have to individually ask for the files to be removed from each of them individually.

    (Before anyone objects, I know they aren't stored as 'files', but that's irrelevant to the conversation.)
  • For those who don't understand how Usenet works, files are broken up into messages (IIRC, in a 7-bit format) and then transmitted. A Usenet reader of any recent vintage takes these messages and combines them, so you can get the particular (usually) RAR file. Now, most people think that killing one message (one file could be comprised of hundreds) is enough to kill the file, but with the advent of PAR utilities, the file could be easily fixed...

    So, for this to be effective against any one program/video/MP3/e
  • Kinda Sad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Enoxice (993945)
    Despite the fact that this makes some modicum of sense, any sort of legal authority this is brought to isn't going to understand it.

    What is, to us, a distributed and self-replicating system of nodes to distribute information (in the form of text "articles") worldwide is, to a judge, a website that sells access to copyrighted materials and refuses to remove them.

    It's the same sort of roadblock torrent sites run into: computer illiteracy. Though, to be fair, it's not like judges should be required by l
    • by grumbel (592662)
      ### What is, to us, a distributed and self-replicating system of nodes to distribute information (in the form of text "articles") worldwide is,

      In all the decade that I have used the Usenet, I have never encountered a free provide that actually provided the *.binary.* groups, in fact most people considered posting binary to the Usenet a pretty stupid idea and in many Usenet hierarchies its not even allowed in the first place. Usenet.com, Giganews and friends really don't look to me much like a harmless Usene
      • by Enoxice (993945)
        Personally I rarely use Usenet for binaries - it's just too clunky since my main reader is for just that ("reading", not grabbing binaries), and the binary functions of the program are clunky at best.

        That being said, I feel like binaries were a natural evolution of Usenet's purpose of information sharing (copyright issues notwithstanding). And I agree that the expressly binary providers are a lot like warez sites, however a suit against one provider (especially one called "usenet") will be bad PR for Us
    • by westlake (615356)
      What is, to us, a distributed and self-replicating system of nodes to distribute information (in the form of text "articles") worldwide is, to a judge, a website that sells access to copyrighted materials and refuses to remove them. It's the same sort of roadblock torrent sites run into: computer illiteracy.

      The computer literate does not pretend that binary content cannot be encoded as text. That "articles" cannot be quickly and easily combined and decoded as movies, mp3s, etc.

      What the judge sees when h

    • How many times have we heard ruling that essentially said "ban the interwebs" because some judge made a decision without adequate (or any) knowledge of the technology involved?

      When judges are judging technology based lawsuits, why won't they ask for "Friend of the Court" briefs explaining the technology and what are practical steps that can be done (i.e. reasonable steps that any competent system admin can do). After all, in this society, no one can know everything of every technology. If you study la
  • In the late 1970s I was on ARPANET when I was a student at SFU (in fact, I was the Computer Science Rep to Student Council there, running on a slogan of A Rabbit On Every Streetcorner, as a feminist candidate).

    I claim prior art. I advertised that I wanted to sell one of my textbooks when I dropped a course.

    RIAA owes me money.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @07:19PM (#21018853)
    What I notice is that while Usenet.com promoted -- stupidly perhaps in today's legal climate -- access to many MP3 files, I didn't see anywhere they they specifically said that these were illegal, copyrighted, RIAA member MP3 files.

    The attitude of the RIAA appears to be that any and all MP3 files are by their very nature illegal, and that they deserve huge woges of money for anyone who has ever touched one. This, of course, is not true at all -- except in the mind of the RIAA.

    If anyone at all is going to kill the rich culture of this country, it won't be the filesharers. It will be the RIAA, and copyrights extended to infinity -- and beyond!

  • by popeye44 (929152) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @09:39PM (#21020143)
    Am I mistaken?

    Maybe i'm missing a point or two here. But it seems to me in order for anyone including the RIAA to define the content of Usenet they would have to decode the binary "and probably have to have a special reader for text" messages. UUencode YENC and MIME seem to be the major encoding types and seeing as the servers store purely code in an unidentifiable format there is no way they could actually SEE what is posted without downloading it and re-encoding it back to a compiled file. Movies/audio etc are all converted TO ascii and then back.

    You cannot watch a stream coming into a usenet server and say it's an MP3 or MPEG or AVI If memory serves me. It's possible the subject line would be clear/plain text but more than that is encoding.

    Correct me if I am wrong.. I've been using Usenet since 97 but it's been since like 98 since I investigated what made it work.
  • Apparently the RIAA has no idea about how Usenet and NNTP work at all. Suing one NNTP service provider will not get everything removed from Usenet, since it is a distributed system with thousands, if not millions, of servers carrying the data. They can try to sue usenet.com, but they won't get the material removed from every server carrying their "stolen" IP.

    Anyone reminded of Don Quixote yet?

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