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Provider: Anti-piracy ruling has 'killed Usenet'

'Impossible to check the contents of 15 to 20 million messages a day'

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Europe’s biggest Usenet provider News-Service Europe (NSE) says anti-piracy organisation BREIN has "killed Usenet". The Dutch organisation this week lost a landmark case in which it was ordered to remove all pirated content or risk fine of €50,000 per day.

"It is technically as well as economically impossible to check the contents of the 15 to 20 million messages that are exchanged on a daily basis," NSE said in a statement. "There is no automated way of checking whether Usenet messages contain copyrighted material or whether permission has been obtained for the distribution of such material. Consequently, we see no way of complying with this verdict. Furthermore, the verdict endangers our very existence as a company, and is a threat to Usenet itself."

NSE CEO Patrick Scheurs says the verdict came as a big surprise. According to the Dutch Civil Code, internet service providers cannot be held liable for any copyright violations by their users, but the judge chose to ignore this legal framework altogether.

However, BREIN managing director Tim Kuik says the verdict affects a "major pillar" of Usenet. BREIN estimates at least 80 per cent of binaries shared through Usenet are illegal. "NSE knows this, but doesn’t want to invest in technology to remove illegal content. Which isn’t surprising, because this is what makes Usenet attractive."

BREIN says it does not want to take down Usenet, just wants the large-scale copyright infringement to end. Earlier this year BREIN already won a case against FTD, the Netherlands’ largest Usenet community, which allowed its members to index the location of content on newsgroups. Now BREIN wants to form partnerships with payment processors such as PayPal in order to "strangle the finances of file-sharing sites". ®

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