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RIAA Victory Over Usenet.com In Copyright Case 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the dropping-like-flies dept.
ozydingo writes "The RIAA has scored a victory in a decision on a copyright case that they filed back in 2007. US District Judge Harold Baer ruled in favor of the music industry on all its main theories: that Usenet.com is guilty of direct, contributory, and vicarious infringement. In addition, and perhaps most important for future cases, Baer said that Usenet.com can't claim protection under the Sony Betamax decision stating that companies can't be held liable of contributory infringement if the device is 'capable of significant non-infringing uses.' Bear noted that Usenet.com differed from Sony in that the sale of a Betamax recorder was a one-time deal, while Usenet.com's interaction with its users was an ongoing relationship. The RIAA stated in a brief note, 'We're pleased that the court recognized not just that Usenet.com directly infringed the record companies' copyrights but also took action against the defendants for their egregious litigation misconduct.'"
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RIAA Victory Over Usenet.com In Copyright Case

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  • by Locklin (1074657) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:15AM (#28541873) Homepage
    I think we may be losing.
    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:21AM (#28541953)
      What do you mean "we", you copyright infringer?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Phoenixlol (1549649)
        my wife's a copyright infinger you insensitive clod!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:31AM (#28542127)

        He could mean that, or he could mean fair-use advocates.

        It seems that the judge's ruling that the Beta-max precedent didn't hold because of the 'on-going relationship' could strike a blow for any and all P2P networks.

      • by Locklin (1074657) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:56AM (#28542471) Homepage
        If you say you have never infringed copyright (at least how the RIAA sees copyright), you are either a lier or a fool. Ever sang happy birthday in a "public venue?" Ever emailed a colleague a recent news clip, journal article or comic? For that matter, are any of those comic posted up in your office? Do you loan or give away books to friends? do you want to do that with e-books when they become ubiquitous? are you an artist that learned your trade by emulating others? perhaps in public venues?

        Like it or not, these people want to make the world a less free place, where only money guarantees freedom and permission is king. File sharing just happens to be the current edge case where the battle is being fought. If they haven't made your life more difficult yet, they will once they have locked up the file sharers and can concentrate more energy on your pet infringement.
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        Some of us not only see nothing wrong with "infringement", but would also like to see it become codified. I would like to see all non-commercial IP laws abolished.

      • by Kabuthunk (972557)

        Probably moreso along the lines of "we" as in "common sense", RIAA-lover.

      • Oddly enough that seems to be the mass opinion lately.

    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:33AM (#28542159)
      And we will until enough people get upset at the abuses and stand up. Until the average person knows that he is caught in the RIAA net too, he won't care, and nothing will change.

      This also applies to encroaching state policies. And yes, they are related.
      • by Locklin (1074657) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:02AM (#28542551) Homepage
        I'm curious of when that will happen. When bill C-61 (the Canadian DMCA) was introduced, there was way more noise from the general public than I expected. I think the average (younger) citizen is starting to understand what's going on, even if they don't seem to care yet.
        • by Bonker (243350) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:44AM (#28543199)

          That assumes that the average American cares. Our population is currently massively bloated from top to bottom with those who neither understand, enjoy, or particularly want the freedoms they could have if they stood up for them.

          I'm having difficulty finding the quote, but not long after our invasion of Iraq some very senior general was quoted as saying that he thought that the United States constitution would not survive another attack on the scale of the September 11th bombings and that our 'Experiment with freedom' would have failed.

          That smacks of Mussolini-type fascism to me. Here's one of our most ranking military leaders indicating he thinks its about time to declare nation-wide martial law.

          On the lower end of the personal power meter, Joe Midwest Sixpack has a very few things he cares about. He wants to be treated well at work and home. He wants his family to do what he tells them. He wants to feel like he's part of a larger animal that's going generally in the right direction. Those desires are met entirely by church and the kind of neo-conservative ramblings that pass for 'news' on cable television these days. He gets a sense of superiority that's entirely fictitious. (Another facet of old-school fascism. Mussolini had the farmer class eating out of the same hand all the WWI vets did.)

          If he thinks about freedom at all, it's in the context of 'Obama better not take my guns!' without ever thinking about why the 2nd Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights at all. In the land of the 'Free and the Brave', this individual is neither free nor brave enough to stand up for his freedoms. He would, frankly, be happier with a absolute monarchy or theocracy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TitusC3v5 (608284)
          I think the 'younger' portion of your statement should have been bolded for emphasis. A large part of the problem is that for the most part, all three of our branches of government are filled with 40+ folks, a large portion of which simply don't understand current technologies and how they've changed the game. They understand only the spin that the lobbyists have memorized, and you can imagine where that comes from.

          Even if public outrage is evident, I think we're going to see any significant and positive
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by guruevi (827432)

      We have been losing since the beginning of the widespread use of the Internet. The state (which is ran by such enterprises) wants to keep tight control over this (originally free and open) medium because they want to turn it into a sales channel for their products.

      And then the populace votes for these enterprises while feeling good that they had a choice and made the right one.

  • by pieterh (196118) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:16AM (#28541889) Homepage

    ...do not piss off the judge! It really is batshit stupid to do things like destroy evidence and make witnesses vanish (even temporarily). Why not go to court naked except for a t-shirt that says "Guilty as Hell" on the front and "Kiss my hairy butt" on the back?

    The only way to handle such things is to find a way to be the victim of the situation, to prove that you did what you could to help, and that the case is unfair, aggressive, and misplaced.

    And, if you don't like the law, work to change it, don't sell ways to get around it. Bad laws exist because people pretend they are helpless to change them.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      And, if you don't like the law, work to change it, don't sell ways to get around it. Bad laws exist because people pretend they are helpless to change them.

      As for adopting the ways which the State has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways. They take too much time, and a man's life will be gone. I have other affairs to attend to. I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad. A man has not everything to do, but something; an

  • FURIAA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't that cover about anything on the internet, ftp, http, ssh.... Gee they could sue just on a grounds that the technology "maybe" used for illegal activity.

    Hmmm.. sue the founders of tcpip because they allow for the "transport" of such illegal activities...

    • Re:FURIAA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by causality (777677) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:28AM (#28542083)

      Doesn't that cover about anything on the internet, ftp, http, ssh.... Gee they could sue just on a grounds that the technology "maybe" used for illegal activity.

      Hmmm.. sue the founders of tcpip because they allow for the "transport" of such illegal activities...

      That would be the logically consistent position, yes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      They sued usenet.com. Not usenet itself. This was because the company was contributing to copyright infringement, not because the technology was.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "They sued usenet.com. Not usenet itself. This was because the company was contributing to copyright infringement, not because the technology was."

        But, doesn't this ruling mean that ANYONE running a USENET server is now in jeopardy legally?

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:23AM (#28541977) Journal

    This legal decision has restored my faith in the legal system. A small group of people were able to fight for their rights against a huge behemoth corporation and win. ~

  • by iCantSpell (1162581) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:25AM (#28542011)

    So does this mean Google is in the same boat? Technically google can do the same thing with filetype.

    filetype:iso has been one of my greatest search modifiers when looking for my pirated copies.

    • by ruin20 (1242396)

      Technically, there's nothing in the law against it despite DCMA safe harbors.

      Ever since the Grokster case got settled, courts have been ruling for "contributory infringement" on a I-know-it-when-I-see-it type basis. Usenet actively promoted the fact that it had lots of infringing content and used that as a selling point in it's business model. And despite disagreeing with the model, they are EXACTLY what is pictured and depicted as "contributory infringement". Until we can reverse it, if your going to run a

    • by zwei2stein (782480) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:44AM (#28542299) Homepage

      Nope.

      a) Google actually reacts to DMCA-like request and does remove search results if companies ask them to. see: http://www.google.com/dmca.html [google.com]

      b) Their business model is not build around enabling piracy, very much unlike sites that depends on it to exists and make profit, hence a) works and there is no reason nor legal grounds to sue them.

      Compared to cookie cutter pirate site where a) will not ever work because b) they will be out of business if they complied and removed copyrighted material as they would be out of content and ad revenue fast. At best they will post childish reaction on their site.

    • Google removes items from index (yes, torrents too) if they point to copyrighted material.
      • by thesp (307649) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:02AM (#28542547)

        I really hate to have to point this out, but almost everything on the internet is copyrighted, in some aspect or another, at least. In fact, nearly everything has some copyrighted component.

        I refer you to the US copyright office, with similar provisions applying in almost every other Berne-convention country (including my very own UK).

        http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#mywork [copyright.gov]

        "When is my work protected?
        Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

        Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
        No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created."

        Copyright is not acquired, it is merely asserted.

        Google cannot possibly have a policy that it only indexes works in which no copyright subsists. I suspect the real policy is that Google removes items from the index if there is a reasonable case that they are infringing copies of a copyright work, or that accessing them is likely to constitute infringement of copyright.

        • Well, I know nothing about US copyright laws, since I'm not a lawyer and not US citizen.

          I only say what I have seen in search results. I searched for a recent movie with "filetype:torrent" modifier. No results showed up and there was a message at the bottom of the page saying "Some search results were removed as a response to some complaint, US DMCA blah-blah blah" and a link to the complaint [chillingeffects.org] I'd post the link to search results here, but the whole page is in Russian, so there is really no use. The same

    • by noidentity (188756) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:04AM (#28542575)

      filetype:iso has been one of my greatest search modifiers when looking for my pirated copies.

      Isn't it simpler to just use a local file search to find your own files? To each his own I guess...

  • Not a seminal case (Score:5, Informative)

    by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:28AM (#28542071) Homepage

    This is merely a district court case where Usenet got hammered for discovery abuses.
    This case does not set any copyright law precedent.
    Mainly this case stands for the following proposition:
    Play by the rules or the judge will get pissed off and then you're fucked.

    The sky is not falling.
    For a recent case with bigger precedential implications for copyright law, and which goes against the MPAA/Copyright Alliance, see the Cablevision case:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/technology/30cable.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss [nytimes.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:33AM (#28542157)

    Bear noted that Usenet.com differed from Sony in that... ...they weren't a multibillion dollar multinational corporation with deep pockets and more lawyers than law school reunions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mea37 (1201159)

      Actually, what he seems to be saying is: If you sell someone a thing, your rseponsibility for how they use that thing after the sale is less than your responsibility for how someone uses a service you are actively providing. Given the nature of secondary infringement, it certainly seems like a plausible distinction. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good cynical punchline.

      (Now, whether I agree with his conclusion I couldn't say without digging quite a bit deeper into the issues.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:33AM (#28542165)

    Kids, forget the internets.. I've got a whole NEW way of file-sharing with no pesky lawyers, no judges, no colluding ISPs, no Orwellian gubment "oversight".
    It's called a "flash drive".

    1. Put a song or movie onto your flash drive and give it to a friend.
    2. They give it back to you with some of their songs or movies on it.
    3. ???
    4. We both haz profits!!!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kabuthunk (972557)

      Except that goes contrary to the primary benifit (in my eyes) of music over the internet. The capability of listening to music that's NOT local and/or sold locally. A few of my favourite genres I'd have never encountered in my entire life if it hadn't been for the internet.

  • by quangdog (1002624) <quangdog.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:38AM (#28542233)
    I'm curious - we frequently hear of the RIAA suing this, that, and the other thing. Is there somewhere we can go to see just how many concurrent ongoing cases involve the RIAA on a global scale?

    I'm guessing no.

    Though I posit that if we had access to a simple count of current litigation broken down by who is suing whom, the RIAA would be somewhere near the top in terms of the number of suits they have filed and are currently working.
    • by causality (777677) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:24AM (#28542875)

      I'm curious - we frequently hear of the RIAA suing this, that, and the other thing. Is there somewhere we can go to see just how many concurrent ongoing cases involve the RIAA on a global scale? I'm guessing no. Though I posit that if we had access to a simple count of current litigation broken down by who is suing whom, the RIAA would be somewhere near the top in terms of the number of suits they have filed and are currently working.

      Makes me wonder one thing. Do you think it would benefit the general population or harm the general population if we simply outlawed all trade organizations and forced all companies in an industry to act as completely independent entities? Because personally, I have never seen them do anything that I found to be desirable though I admit that such things probably don't make the news.

      • by quangdog (1002624)
        That's a slippery slope - how would you define trade organizations?

        The RIAA is a group made up of corporations. Something like the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is made up of mostly individuals, as I understand. Do you propose that we just let corporations stand alone as singleton entities, but let individual professionals join groups that help further their careers, share information, etc? How do you deal with someone who wholly owns a corporation? (I do). Could I personally join an ass
  • Back in my day.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zepo1a (958353) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:39AM (#28542241)

    Back in my day (I'm 48)....

    When I was a young whipper snapper in the 70's-80's. I'd buy an album and copy it to tape for my car. If asked by a friend for a copy, I'd take a blank cassette tape and make a copy in my cassette recorder with the high speed dub feature.

    I'd also ask friends the same, and they'd make me a tape of an album I didn't have.

    I'd also buy cassette tapes of music at the store.

    Now my 69 Dodge Dart back then is carting around 150-200 cassette tapes, some my own made copies, some a friend made copies for me and other store bought tapes.

    The music industry and RIAA seemed to live through that era. If one friend bought an album, all his friends would get a cassette copy if they wanted it.

    I don't ever recall the cops ever asking me if I got pulled over for speeding or something..."BTW son, Do you have a license for all those home recorded cassette tapes back there."

    Seriously, what are the RIAA trying to prove here. I just can't wrap my head around all this frivolous suing.

    Now get off my lawn, etc...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Robin47 (1379745)
      They want more power. Money is portable power. They don't care how they get it as long as they get it.
    • by cil1mia (1165281) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:11AM (#28542693)
      Here! Here! Also living through the 70's, 80's AND 90's when this was all the norm! Even recording TV shows on your VCR to loan to a friend who missed that episode of Dallas! HAHAHAHA!

      The only reason I can figure is mainly because most of the "mainstream" music that has been coming out sucks horribly! So the recording industry had to figure out a way to make up for lost revenue seeing they couldn't figure out a better business model or find/make better bands!

      Lets not forget the whining of Lars Ulrich http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS6udST6lbE [youtube.com] that really started all this mess! And now he see's his mistake and downloads his own music off the internet! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lars_Ulrich [wikipedia.org]

      You also never really hear of the actual BANDS out there complaining about file sharing. They know the truth that the more people that get a taste, the more they will actually go out and buy the whole album/cd/what ever, the more people that will come out to see them live! I can't tell you how many albums I bought when I was younger after hearing a song on a "mix tape" at a party or something!

      Which brings me to another thought. What the hell ever happened to making music for the pure joy of it? Oh that's right, greed!
    • The music industry and RIAA seemed to live through that era. If one friend bought an album, all his friends would get a cassette copy if they wanted it.

      But what happened if the friend tried to make a copy for his friend, and that other friend tried to make a copy for his other friend. Surely you remember that, don't you? The quality stank so badly nobody wanted to listen to that copy, thanks to lossy analog dubbing.

      With digital media, each copy is lossless, so if a friend copies a song for a friend, who copies it for another friend... even 10, 20, 1000 friends down the chain, and the music still has its original quality.

      So I don't think your Dodge Dart c

    • I just can't wrap my head around all this frivolous suing.

      It's not that hard.

      The underlying fact that has changed from the days of cassette tapes is that today we live in a mostly digital world. The ability to make perfect copies and distribute them on a scale unimagined just a few years ago changes all the rules. That's not to say, however, that cassettes or other analogue recordings weren't an issue way back when (recall the diatribes of Jack Valenti predicting the death of the movie industry and compar

    • Back in my day (I'm 48)....

      When I was a young whipper snapper in the 70's-80's. I'd buy an album and copy it to tape for my car. If asked by a friend for a copy, I'd take a blank cassette tape and make a copy in my cassette recorder with the high speed dub feature.

      I don't ever recall the cops ever asking me if I got pulled over for speeding or something..."BTW son, Do you have a license for all those home recorded cassette tapes back there."

      Really? You can't tell the difference between sharing amongst a group of friends (or even friends of friends) and one person buying it , posting it online for thousand or hundreds of thousands of people to access?

      I'm don't think that the RIAA is handling things in the right way. They are a bunch of scumbags. The answer to this is to make media cheap and easy enough to access legally, that most people wouldn't bother stealing. But, the internet has fundamentally changed access to media in a way that mak

  • by seekret (1552571)
    They shouldn't have been advertising the availability of illegal material, they dug there own grave by literally saying "come here to download any copyright material you want and we will help you get away with it". Usenet is useful for many things that are perfectly legal, I feel no remorse for usenet.com because their own arrogance brought this on them.
  • by shentino (1139071)
    Andnothingofvaluewaslost
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@s l a s h dot.org> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:24AM (#28542877)

    This has nothing to do with the rights of the artists. It's purely about the copyright.

    May they live forever, only wishing they could finally die from the horrors.

    • by taustin (171655)

      Actually, this has very little to do with copyrights either, and much to do with the defendant destroying and falsifying evidence and tampering with witnesses.

      The safe harbor provision only applies to defendants who act in good faith. Tampering with witnesses and evidence is pretty good reason to think they have something to hide, and is, in fact, grounds for far harsher rulings than this. Like a summary ruling in the other side's favor, end of story. Or even criminal prosecution, if the behavior is egregio

  • by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:24AM (#28542881)

    Maybe it's because I'm not really involved in the legal system, but I find the way the jduge sanctioned usenet.com to be very troubling.

    If you'll read the article, you'll see that usenet.com destroyed evidence and arranged for witnesses against it to be out of the country for the trial. For this, usenet.com absolutely deserves to be sanctioned.

    But the judge's sanction was effectively to rewrite the DMCA. Lawmakers inserted a Safe Harbor provision into the DMCA that shielded service providers from responsibility for criminal activity of their users. When Judge Baer sanctioned usenet.com by preventing them from raising the Safe Harbor defense, he effectively rewrote the DMCA in a way that lawmakers never intended!

    Without the Safe Harbor defense, usenet.com's case was lost. I'm not sure what the appropriate sanction should be for usenet.com's blatant discovery violations, but a judge rewriting a law as it applies to just one company seems wrong to me.

    • by taustin (171655) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @12:08PM (#28543729) Homepage Journal

      Actually, generally speaking, when a litigant is caught falsifying or destroying evidence, or otherwise interfering with the other side's case, it isn't uncommon for the judge to deny them to opportunity to present any defense. This is, in many people's opinion, entirely appropriate. It's the punishment for obstructing justice. This happened in one of the lawsuits over the University of California fertility clinic scandal, when the state's lawyers were caught falsifying evidence. The judge just issued a summary ruling for over $100 million, and that was that.

      The key concept here is, if you don't want to lose automatically, don't break the rules (and the law).

      • I believe you. Like I said, I am not familiar with the ins and outs of the "real" legal system (but I know small claims court pretty well, being a landlord and all). I'll take your word for it that this is the usual procedure with respect to a litigant violating discovery rules.

        Just seems weird to me to have a judge rewriting the law as it pertains to just one entity. Not that I don't see this all the time in small claims court, where most judges don't know the specifics of the landlord tenant act very w

  • by pjr.cc (760528) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @12:05PM (#28543669)

    No one gets usenet versus Usenet.com (nor I really). But it certainly has some interesting implications, for example, almost every ISP in Australia has a usenet feed and a full alt.binaries tree. That could make for some "fun times" and i cant only imagine what will happen if the RIAA equivalent in AU gets to mess with our little comunist firewall... err, i mean saviour of our childrens minds.

    Given there are already cases against the ISP's in court already.

    But, does it really matter? Yeah, usenet was good while it lasted and if this is about to spell it's final "for whom the bell tolls", then so be it. One of the big problems with usenet in the modern era was lack of knowledge of its existence. For example, in my day I sold and bought things on Aus.ads.forsale and now everyone uses ebay cause they know it exists.

    But, some of that "social fabric" is changing as well (to more modern things I mean). Take twitter and facebook as a semi-evolutionary step, sure you probably cant easily share copywritten (?) work on them easily, but how long until the google wave becomes a simple, all-access protocol capable of doing the same?

    The internet does route around the damage that people do to it, and techo's come up with better tech for avoiding rediculous litigation - but more importantly, they get better at quickly making things that are hard to blame on any one person or organisation while people like the RIAA are struggling to grapple with putting together a case based on incomplete evidence from yesterdays protocols.

    Block Bittorrent in AU? go for it, we'll get something else (we had kazaa, napster, emule, etc etc already and we learnt from the various mistakes present in those protocols). In short, techno-people move quick, bit corp's move slow and we're always going to be ahead.

    Personally when it comes to all these things all I know is that it puts me off watching movies or listening to music because if I happen to have an MP3 of a song from a CD that was later stolen, chances are I could be possibly in trouble. In alot of industries thats called shooting yourself in the foot.

    Oh, and did anyone see that little news report in AU about how movie piracy was funding terrorism? I wonder how much the RIAA payed to have that little piece put on the air (in all fairness, it was physical media piracy as opposed to sharing on the internet, but still)...

  • So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frozentier (1542099) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @12:35PM (#28544293)
    So, this means if a guy bootlegging movies were to record those movies onto Memorex blank DVD's, then Memorex would be liable for copyright infringement, right?

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