August 2012: Virgin Media, along with three other major UK internet providers, including BT, Sky, and TalkTalk, completed the circle and blocked all access to what used to be the spearhead of Usenet networks – Newzbin2. A few months later, specifically near December 2012, the website closes its servers for good.
Following this victory, Hollywood’s studios demanded financial compensation from Newzbin2’s operators. Unfortunately for them, the UK High Court dismissed the request this Tuesday.
Just like any other respectable website of its kind, Newzbin2 serviced its users (approximately 700.000) with movies, music, games, and so on. The website quickly became one of the most popular, at least amongst those using Usenet networks. The “deadly” combination quickly attracted Hollywood’s attention; in March 2010, the American movie studios managed to force the website, through a court ruling of course, to remove infringing data from its database.
One year later, UK’s ISPs were also court ordered to block all access to the portal, a move which eventually led to its unfortunate demise.
This, however, wasn’t enough for Hollywood, as the movie studios asked for financial compensation. After a thorough review of the facts, an UK High Court ruled against the studios’ demands.
“Suppose, say, that a market trader sells infringing DVDs, among other goods, from a stall he has set up on someone else’s land without consent,” judge Guy Richard Newey said.
Facing the question: “Can the owner of the land make a proprietary claim to the proceeds of the trading?” the judge replied:
“There is no evident reason why the owner of the copyright in the DVDs should be in a better position in this respect.”
The involved studios (20th Century Fox, Universal, Warner Bros, Paramount, Disney and Columbia Pictures) were represented by Richard Spearman.
“On Mr. Spearman’s case, a copyright owner’s claim would not even be limited to the infringer’s profits,” the judge wrote.
“In principle, the entire proceeds of sale would be held on trust for the copyright owner. That might both be unfair and stultify enterprise,” he continued.
He also added:
“A person might be deterred from pursuing an activity if he perceived there to be even a small risk that the activity would involve a breach of copyright or other intellectual property rights … that could have a chilling effect on innovation and creativity.”
In response to this ruling, an official statement from the Motion Picture Association was made:
“Newzbin has been found by the High Court to be an illegal site. The operators of the site have made a large amount of money from the unauthorized use of other peoples’ creative works. We made it clear that we would take further action against the individuals in the hope that the site would close and welcome the fact that this has finally happened. Intellectual property is a property right that creates value and stimulates investment and growth. Recognition and protection of this right underpins innovation. The court has already ordered that assets that have been acquired with the proceeds of infringement should be frozen pending a trial later this year.
The judge’s decision applies to one particular point in the case. We do believe that the decision does not take the specific facts of this case into account, and we are seeking leave to appeal. The only innovation and creativity Newzbin has shown is the way in which the site has operated outside the law to exploit what others have taken the time and money to create,” a spokesperson for the MPA told Hollywood Reporter.
You can read the judge’s entire ruling here.