Lessons Ignored

To understand this you need to understand the Newzbin business model. The headlines focus on copyright infringing sites being free, but equally vital are their simplicity, global content availability and use of open formats. Newzbin is different. Firstly it is not free. Payment is required for membership (£4.10 per 12 weeks, roughly £18 per year), then payment for a reliable Usenet download client (for example Newsleecher – from $19.99 per year) and lastly subscription to a Usenet service provider like Giganews or Newshosting from around $13 per month. When combined this isn't cheap and – as you may have guessed – setting it up is not simple.

In fact if Newzbin proves anything it is users are willing to learn and pay in order to attain their content (the MPA went after BT and Newzbin because they are leaders in their fields). So the primary motivating factors are actually the wide array of content and its global availability. Copyright holders have both and should be thrilled. After all the ruling certainly matters more to them than to Newzbin. There was no attempt to close the site down and it has received invaluable publicity. If any illegal downloaders were unaware of Newzbin, they aren't now.

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So it is tragic both copyright holders and politicians have completely missed this point.

"This ruling from Justice Arnold is a victory for millions of people working in the UK creative industries," said Chris Marcich, president and managing director of MPA Europe.

"Finally, it seems we have a way to deal with rogue sites which will benefit the film industry including UK independent distributors and, more broadly, the entire creative sector," crowed Lord Puttnam, president of the Film Distributers Association.

"Agree with independent TV producers [sic] body PACT that newzbin judgment will help protect investment in the content we all want to warch [sic]" tweeted Ed Vaizey the government minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

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No, no and no. Technology moves faster than the courts. The closing of previous rogues like Napster, Kazaa and bitorrent.com did nothing to slow copyright infringement and this legal practice of Whac-A-Mole has long proved futile. Instead all involved are left in impossible positions. The copyright holders waste time and money in the courts trying to stop, rather than learn from infringing sites that prove popular. MPs remain generalists, not specialists and still fail to grasp the nuances behind modern technology that lead to legislation like the Digital Economy Act. Meanwhile ISPs are now thrust into the role of privatised police, each tasked with reducing the consumption of infringers while their upgraded connections simultaneously equip them with ever faster getaway cars.

It is a good thing for Voltaire that he is 233 years dead.

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