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Digital Britain Amendment Means No Site Is Safe As Newzbin Falls

Gordon Kelly


Digital Britain Amendment Means No Site Is Safe As Newzbin Falls

In cyberspace no-one can hear you scream bang your head against the wall...

Two worrying developments in the murky waters of copyright infringement today. Firstly Zdnet reports that a new wildly ambiguous and potentially game changing (not for the better) amendment has been proposed for the government's Digital Economy Bill.

Drafted on Tuesday, Clause 18 will allow courts to grant injunctions against websites that aid copyright infringement. That sounds fine, I hear you say - well not when a website can be targeted based on "a location on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be {italics mine} used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright".

Yes people, Clause 18 proposes does indeed propose that courts should be allowed to bring injunctions against websites that do not, but that may in the future be used for copyright infringement. So that's innocent until proven, oh hang on...

Lord Mandleson has introduced this draconian measure and we really shouldn't be surprised. After all, back in August he recommended users who infringe copyrights have their Internet connections cut-off to speed up "a situation that calls for urgent action." Such action naturally enough ignores the fall-out to anyone connected to the file sharer, be it their children, partners - or in the case of children - their parents.

Fingers crossed sense will be seen and Clause 18 will be removed just as its similar predecessor, amendment 120A, was having been described as "unworkable".

Secondly (I know, the first is depressing enough), the MPA has broken new ground in getting an injunction served against popular Usenet indexing site newzbin. I could rant again, but in a site post newzbin's official response sums things up succinctly.

We are very disappointed with the judgment. Regrettably the court has accepted the distorted and flawed evidence that Hollywood presented. Contrary to the finding of the court our site has not deliberately sought to index infringing material, nor to assist those of our users who use it for that purpose. The site provides a generalised search facility for binary content found on Usenet and not just infringing material. Any of the material we index can be found on any one of thousands of sites on the Internet so pursuit of us is a futile waste of everyones time and money.

Sadly the MPA are stuck in a technology stone age. Rather than addressing their own broken business models & monopolistic commercial practices they seek to curtail innovation and freedom on the Internet. It is notable, for example, that the MPA are the sponsors behind attempts to introduce Chinese internet censorship into the UK through the Digital Enterprise Bill. Perhaps if they used their energy providing what people want, rather than buying laws to sustain their own house of cards, they might have a stronger future. We certainly reject their attempt to use this decision and our site as an excuse for rushing through undemocratic laws in a wash-up just before an election.

We lacked the limitless legal funds and legions of lawyers the MPA had and that is the only reason for their win. That said, we are looking at our grounds of appeal and how we move forward to continue to provide innovation and useful search resources for our users.

Ultimately, the dinosaurs of the content industry will need to face reality; the sad thing is that winning cases such as this only damages them and puts their own future in doubt.

The next hearing is in April and until then newzbin has had to strip all download functionality from newly added Usenet content and suspended all premium users accounts.

The sad thing here is newzbin simply aggregates all the content on Usenet - which is intimidating to most casual users - and sorts it into searchable categories. So the MPA's victory lays the foundation to sue (and win) any case it takes against a service which aggregates content where there could be copyrighted material within it. So Google next, then?!


via Zdnet

newzbin blog

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