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UK High Court Finds Newzbin Site Operator-Owner Liable for Copyright Infringement

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UK High Court Finds Newzbin Site Operator-Owner Liable for Copyright Infringement

Postby sunnyd » Wed May 28, 2014 7:06 pm

It was back on May 18, 2010, when Newzbin shut down after being found liable by the UK court March 29, 2010 for copyright infringement. The site faced a huge debt as a result of the lawsuit brought forward by the MPA (Motion Picture Association) which is the international version of the MPAA. Newzbin was once the premier NZB indexing site, and many of its users were not happy to see the doors close. Then on June 2, 2010, the site was resurrected as Newzbin2 following the source code leak on the Internet which was found by a group named Team R Dogs, led by a Mr. White. The team struggled at first with the code to get the site back up again, but over time did a very impressive job with it. In December of 2010, the MPA came back into the picture to target Newzbin2 since they were not able to collect anything once Newzbin shut down. It was in November of 2011 when censorship of Newzbin2 by the British Telecom began, and other ISPs were also being ordered to block the site. When that happened, the Newzbin team already had a workaround in place by implementing a unique client designed to defeat the block, and also by the use of the TOR network. However, following all of the attempts at keeping the site alive including a domain change, much to the regret of many users, Newzbin2 was forced offline on November 28, 2012. The once powerful Usenet indexing site succumbed to all of the outside pressures by the strong forces that wanted the site offline, and it could no longer realistically accept payments or sustain itself economically. The lawsuit by the MPA was still pending until now.

Just recently, On May 16, 2014 in the England High Wales Court, Mr. Justice Barling ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and found that David Harris, the owner of Newzbin, was jointly responsible along with his Newzbin Limited business for copyright-infringing activities on the Newzbin and Newzbin2 websites over a period of time that covered almost three years.

As reported by Out-Law, Mr. Justice Barling ruled that Harris was also part of a conspiracy to infringe copyrights and defraud film studios.

"I am satisfied that Harris is [jointly liable along with Newzbin Limited for the wrongful act]...of the copyright infringing operations via the [original Newzbin] website for the period between 19 December 2009 and 18 May 2010, when the website closed," Mr. Justice Barling said. "Harris masterminded and directed all the actions of [Newzbin Limited] throughout that period, including those actions which were found to constitute infringing conduct. If ever there was a clear case of a company director 'intending, procuring and sharing a common design' to commit an infringement with the company, and 'making it his own', then this is it."

Six major film studios; Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, Universal and Columbia, brought the action against Harris on behalf of themselves and other members of the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

The film studios had claimed that Harris was the "driving force behind mass deliberate infringements of [their] copyrights" and that five businesses they were also suing were owned or controlled by Harris. They said Harris used the businesses to channel money generated from the copyright infringing activities to himself and syphon off funds from his Newzbin business to thwart their efforts to recover costs and compensation for Newzbin's own copyright infringement.

Harris claimed that all reasonable steps were taken to adhere to the High Court's 2010 order and he denied having anything to do with setting up or running the Newzbin2 website. He further claimed that the Newzbin2 website was being operated by a Swedish man who he had leased domain name rights to. The judge however, rejected that defense.

"Despite Harris's denials, the evidence that he was the driving force behind the setting up and operation of the N2 website is overwhelming, and it is clear that the suggestion of theft of [Newzbin Limited's] software and of Swedish nationals running the [Newzbin2] website is a fairytale," Mr. Justice Barling said.

The full court decisions document can be read here. The damage award that Harris has been ordered to pay by May 30, 2014, is £1.3m ($2.2m). It would appear that the long standing legal issues for Newzbin and Mr. Harris have finally come to an end.

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