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Digital Britain Amendment Means No Site Is Safe As Newzbin Falls

Gordon Kelly by

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?!

Link:

via Zdnet

newzbin blog

Go to comments

Martin

March 31, 2010, 10:22 pm

Nice to know Sith Lord Mandleson can be disgraced umpteen times and still come back pushing pro-corporate, anti-electorate, legislation.

MrGodfrey

March 31, 2010, 11:08 pm

Martin: Don't give up hope. We haven't tried silver bullets or a stake through the heart yet.





Infuriatingly, with Clause 17 the arch-scumbag Mandy had help from two... Liberal Democrats! Of all people. I can only assume they couldn't resist the irony of adding an amendment that was about as ilLiberal and unDemocratic as possible.





I now look forward to Clause 19, which will allow the BPI to electrocute you to death via your PC if you try ripping a CD...





In all seriousness though, it is a bit naive to hope that "sense will be seen". Why? Check the news - they won't even bother reading it; this bill is going to be rushed through as hastily as Mandy pocketing a bribe.

Lord Comben III

March 31, 2010, 11:10 pm

Be nice if they did go for google because at least google can afford the lawyers to take them down, i mean they are currently taking on China so i think they have the wantons for it

RazorA

March 31, 2010, 11:31 pm

@ Martin, it amazes me that he still aligns himself with the working class party when all his actions prove to the contrary.





'tis true that the darkest substance known to mankind is Mandelson's heart. I for one wish they'd pushed through urgent reform for the House of Lords, one of the last bastions of elitism existing in British Society.

Enigma

April 1, 2010, 1:32 am

Patience.





To paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, once all the scapegoats and excuses have been exhausted there will only remain the .... to blame!!!

Enigma

April 1, 2010, 1:39 am

.... alternatively you could write to your MP(Find it here: http://www.parliament.uk/direc... ),the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Members (cmscom@parliament.uk)and Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury &#8211 Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport (info@libdems.org.uk);

Enigma

April 1, 2010, 4:16 am

Here's some relevant info on the matter in hand:





&#8220Is it time to defend our rights?&#8221 -- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/tec...





The media industry has been hoodwinking the Governments on the issue of internet piracy and the following &#8220Movie-goers make 2009 a record box office year&#8221 ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/bus... )and &#8220Beatles still saving EMI after 40 years" ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/bus... )demonstrate their arguments to be flawed and reveal their true motives respectively. Read this "First Titanic, now Avatar: how does James Cameron do it?" ( http://entertainment.timesonli... ) and "Online music royalties 'grow more than fall from CDs'" ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/bus... ). What did they blame the demise of cinemas in the 1970s? Yet in the face of the scourge of internet piracy Cinema audiences have increased and hence new cinema openings!





Furthermore 'losses' to internet piracy that companies' and their Accountants allege may have something to do with creative accounting as the unhappy and sad case of the Actor David Prowse (aka Darth Vader in Star Wars films or the Green Cross Code Man) - http://entertainment.timesonli... - illustrates. Mr Prowse has "revealed that although he is entitled to a small percentage of box office receipts for two of the three original Star Wars films ...... he has not received residual payments for Return of the Jedi because producers told him that it has not made a profit."





"In real terms, Return of the Jedi is the fifth highest grossing film so far made. The film made $572 million (£388 million) at cinemas worldwide, including an estimated $88 million when it was re-released as a &#8220special edition&#8221 in 1997."





Remember how for years the Music industry claimed that the costs justified the high prices of £14-20 for a CD album! This when Tesco's and others sell CDs and DVDs for as little as a £1.00!!!





Indeed before the recording media came on the scene Music, Film and other industries ripped off the artists, inventors etc for years citing this and other costs. Now they've got the artist believing this latest bull***t.

MrGodfrey

April 1, 2010, 5:15 am

Enigma: Given that the bill may well be pushed through before the general election, I think the time for patience is well and truly over. Thanks for the links; I suggest everyone uses them to make their views felt on this issue if you have not done so already.

theory28

April 1, 2010, 6:11 am

"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"





a piece on this by Ars goes into more detail, and from what was said the Newzbin guys can't really claim as much ignorance as they are trying to





http://arstechnica.com/tech-po...

Pbryanw

April 1, 2010, 7:42 am

@Thanks for the link theory28 - it seems there's always two sides to any story. I suppose, Google, in its defense doesn't go out of its way to flag up copyrighted material, while Newzbin seemed to - deliberately. And all while making 360k in profits.





Maybe though, instead of suing everyone for copyright infringement, the Studios should be considering why people are quite willing to pay 30p a week for pirated material, but not for their over-priced stuff. And maybe if there was a UK Netflix equivalent (I know there's Lovefilm but at the moment it's not as mature as Netflix), there would be less need for this.

Gordon394

April 1, 2010, 8:24 am

@Pbryanw - you're spot on. The problem right now is, while music is now well distributed around the world and there are a variety of legal download and streaming services available that simply doesn't exist for film and TV - most notably TV.





For example, the latest episodes of hit US shows simply aren't available legally in the UK until months - sometimes years - after their original screening. If a distribution method and fair pricing could be found to combat this it would be a major breakthrough.





After all, Usenet is actually quite complicated to use and I suspect Newzbin users in particular weren't against paying for content given that the site requires a subscription and downloads from it require server hosting which tends to come in at around £10-15 per month...

Chocoa

April 1, 2010, 9:48 am

Quote" After all, Usenet is actually quite complicated to use "


Well I would beg to differ here Gordon. I think that most of the youth of today and ahem some of us 'oldies' might be able to use Usenet very easily. But your comment about the costs of Usenet access is pertinent. Given the users would ascribe the content gathered as free!- Industry see a new business model here????





Much of the content movement by up/down-loaders is now hidden by HTPPS and SSL. So the industry will then have to develop snooping techniques for every such connection to even guess what is being transfered - Their implied assumption is of course it is illegal. The other of quoted assumption being that legal purchasers and file-sharers are a different group of consumers. I suspect that much of the youth 'implicated' in the tech generation perceive a very grey line between purchase and file sharing. After all it is simple human nature to get for free what otherwise you might have to pay for - be it apples from someone else's garden or a pirate movie!





But the sad point of any draconian law is that inevitably you drive the 'crime' further underground; just look at the class A drug industry. The government ( now masters or servants?) further alienate the up coming voters of tomorrow....<sigh>

Gordon394

April 1, 2010, 10:21 am

@Chocoa - I'd bet you at least 30-50% of even TR's readers would struggle to describe what Usenet is without consulting Wikipedia and given the split nature of files, server hire and setup required I do still think it takes a lot more learning than - say - bittorent.





Otherwise I completely agree with you. Many of these users are prepared to spend money hiring the resources needed to attain these files because there is simply no way to get the likes of hit TV content legally in their home countries.

Gordon394

April 1, 2010, 10:26 am

PS - I would also add, that given music is only a tiny part of the traffic on Usenet and it was the MPA that when after them, not the RIAA - that video was the driving factor for users. Funnily enough, users who were prepared to PAY to get access to it!





The television and film industries really do need to sort out their international distribution methods. The music industry may be backward, but they are The Jetsons compared to the MPA. Anyone ever see a music CD that wouldn't play in different regions around the world?!

Wildkard

April 1, 2010, 1:33 pm

Legal movie downloads in the UK are priced ludicrously. For example, I saw the standard def version of Hancock on the Playstation Store for 12.99. Who on earth would pay that? And when you can Google for a download link (being deliberately vague there) to a movie/song that you want, illegal downloads are unstoppable anyway.





My main problem is that, my god, does the government not think it has bigger bloody issues to take care of anyway?

Don Kanonjii

April 1, 2010, 2:25 pm

Well if people search for this content then google will point them toward it as does every search engine in the world. Surely they should be taking every single search engine down? / end sarcasm (but it is true). What I find truly gawling and frankly unbelievable is that nobody (in the government) seems to be bothered at all about the rights of the people! I am all for protecting the content of providers etc but this is not the way to do it. It make a mockery of democracy by the virtue that there is none in this process, it makes a mockery of freedom and it makea a mockery of what could easily now be classed as a human right to access the internet.





What if little timmy accidentally downloads or uploads something copyrighted and the household internet connection? Or more likely wrongly suspected and just accused with no means of defending himself and cut off anyway like a criminal. His Mum or Dad runs a business from home and suddenly boom! internet conncetion is cut off, business is lost, family loses home, Stress causes marriage to fail, parents split child forever damaged...the list goes on! This is the kind of stuff that can and will likely happen unless the people stand up and take action rather than just maoning about it. This whole country is going down the drain. This is slightly off topic but it goves you an idea what kind of society we live in. Yesterday in the press it was reported that a 66yr grandmother who was a pet shop owner was fined thousands of pounds placed under curfew and had to wear an electronic tag for 6 months! .... what for? selling a goldfish to a 14yr old boy when it is now apparently illegal to sell pets to anyone under 16. Was she wrong to do it? yes, BUT electronic tags and curfews!??? surely only fit for serial murderers and sex offenders. If we are not careful and continue to let these things happen we will all end up living in a society where nobody says anything negative about anyone or anything through fear of extreme persecution for do nothing or very little wrong.

Don Kanonjii

April 1, 2010, 2:47 pm

@ Wildkard - your point is a fair one regarding pricing. Digital distribution eliminates all manner of costs for a publisher. there are no packacgeing, distribution or store costs involved (which make up the bulk of retail prices). However that does not justify going and downloading it illegally. £12.99 for the SD version is a complete rip off but google will also legally find you the SD DVD for as little as £3.99 inc postage or Blu-ray for £7.90 inc postage. Clearly the digital model is FUBAR and THIS is why nobody is buying digital. If they price things fairly they will get more people buying legitimately instead of downloading. The same principle applies across almost all industries.

Nick 11

April 18, 2010, 12:46 am

Gordon's made the case quite simply - the problem isn't the willingness to pay, it's the industries deliberately throttling customers to make the most of distribution rights - causing TV shows to arrive months too late or usually nto at all - and the DVD sales.





Well, call me an old fool, but if I have an impulse to watch a US TV show I really would like to do so the evening/morning it comes out. I don't want to steal it, I believe the producers should be paid for it but once that impulse has passed I won't really bother about buying the DVDs.





In short, they're losing customers who want to get involved and support their shows but refuse to. If the studios offered me content for say £5 a month I'd buy it.





The trouble is, the media industries would really like us to pay every time we "consume" their content. That doesn't stand these days. DRM free, subscription based access made available globally, immediately, is the only solution that makes any sense.





Heck, I'll wave a fiver at them right now if it'd help!

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