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RIAA aims lawyers at usenet newsgroup service

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The Recording Industry Ass. of America has now attacked a company that provides access to internet newsgroups.

Last Friday, RIAA lawyers chucked a federal lawsuit at Usenet.com, claiming that the Fargo, North Dakota newsgroup service "enables and encourages" people to swap copyrighted music.

The organization that represents the country's big-name record labels is convinced that Usenet.com infringes copyrights in ways that extend well beyond peer-to-peer file-sharing services.

"[Usenet.com] provides essentially the same functionality that P2P services such as Napster, Aimster, Grokster, and Kazaa did (prior to being enjoined by the federal courts) - knowingly providing the site and facilities for users to upload and download copyrighted works - except that [it] goes further than even the P2P services to facilitate and encourage copyright infringement by users," the complaint reads.

Usenet.com offers web mavens anonymous access to over 120,000 usenet newsgroups, those bulletin-board-like server networks that have facilitated online data swapping since the 80s. Some of these are ASCII-based groups that serve up text-based info, but as Usenet.com points out, others are binary groups that serve up files, including MP3s.

"Today’s hottest way of sharing MP3 files over the Internet is Usenet; forget about all the peer-to-peer software applications, which quickly become outdated," reads the Usenet.com site. "Usenet allows everyone around the world to share their files on a worldwide network of peer servers and make them available to any member of this worldwide network."

According to Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital watchdog, the RIAA has long fought behind the scenes to shutdown access to binary newsgroups.

"I know just from talking to lawyers from recording industry lawyers that they've had their eye on usenet groups for a quite awhile," von Lohmann told The Reg. "My impression is that most commercial ISPs have given up on binary newsgroups under pressure from the entertainment industry."

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