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Million pound Usenet indexer found guilty

Judge not impressed with 'we're only a search engine' claim

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Newzbin, a website which indexed Usenet files, but did not host them, has been found liable for copyright infringement by the High Court of Justice in London .

Newzbin was a members-only website and had turnover of more than £1m in 2009. It provided members with a search engine for Usenet groups. Precise terms of the judgement are still to be decided, but the site is unlikely to continue in its current form.

The Motion Picture Association, which brought the case, welcomed the verdict and said it helped clarify European law on "internet intermediaries".

Newzbin was less impressed but glad the MPA did not win the full injunction it was seeking.

Newzbin said:

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."

Newzbin called on the MPA to address its broken business model instead of lobbying for restrictive laws like the Digital Enterprise Bill.

A spokeswoman for the MPA said it was not about to go to war with search engines like Google. She said: "It has taken eight months to get this to court. It was about how the search results were presented. The next step is not decided yet."

She said: "This verdict confirms that such websites have a duty of care to prevent the availability of illegal content on their websites."

The Federation Against Copyright Theft is taking action against streaming site Surf the Channel later in the year.

The judge, Mr Justice Kitchin, rejected the defendant's claims that the site was mainly used to search for Usenet discussions rather than binary content.

The full judgement is available here. ®

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