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March 1, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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It was unusual for the MPAA to strike against Usenet (Newsgroup) indexing sites, as their importance has always been seen as minor compared to BitTorrent and eDonkey2000. Perhaps two years ago this notion would have been true; however two years might as well be two hundred years when we're discussing Internet technology.

Usenet has shifted from being a relatively obscure player to a significant content resource. The key reason for Usenet's advance into mainstream file-sharing is the growing ease in obtaining files from this medium.

Several years ago, Usenet was reserved for a more advanced crowd of Internet citizens. It took work to shuffle through individual Newsgroups (ie, alt.binaries.dvd, alt.binaries.dvdr, etc.) to find material. It was necessary to download hundreds, if not thousands of headers (similar to an email header.) The end user had to then select the relevant headers, download the associated messages, and assemble the archive. The archive is a group of compressed files, which when assembled yields the requested media file.

Unless you're familiar with Newsgroups, the above paragraph probably didn't make much sense. And that was enough to keep the mainstream audience at bay. PAR and NZB files changed all that.

PAR files, or Parity files, are considered God's gift to the Newsgroups. Their basic function is to reassemble an archive that may have several missing or damaged files. In the past, if an archive had just one file damaged, the entire download was lost. Par files mathematically calculate the missing binary code and reassemble (or repair) the damaged files.

The most important advancement to the Newsgroups was the advent of NZB (Newzbin) files. NZB files completely eliminate the confusing and deterring steps pointed out in the above paragraphs, and streamlines Newsgroup downloading. The NZB file tells the Usenet client in which Newsgroup the requested file archive is located and which headers to download. Simply put, NZB files allow even the most inept of individuals to point, click and download the file he or she desires.

Further facilitating the Newsgroups migration to simplicity are indexing sites such as DVDRs.net. Like BitTorrent or eDonkey2000 indexing sites, Newsgroup indexing sites act as a catalog for available files. Instead of hosting .torrent files or hash links, Newsgroup indexing sites index NZB files. Throw in a search engine, and its Newsgroups made easy.

Unfortunately for such indexers, the entertainment industry has caught on to this growing trend towards simplicity. Last week, the MPAA cited NZB-Zone.com, BinNews.com and DVDRs.net as the first Usenet indexing websites targeted in their online copyright war. Like ED2K-It.com, the complainants contend DVDRs.com is liable for inducing, contributory, and vicariously enabling copyright infringement.

"The blatant infringements made possible by using Defendants’ website are obvious – and are well-known to and encouraged by Defendants. Anyone who visits the website, including Defendants themselves, can immediately observe the site’s catalog of infringing files."

The seemingly impossible odds, especially in the American file-sharing climate, appear to give the DVDRs.net administration little choice but to discontinue the existence of their site. The administration plans on launching a new site, dubbed "Talk DVD", however any connotation to file-sharing or NZB files will be left in the past. From DVDRs.net's administrator "Descds":

"To this end we feel its time to drop reference to Usenet entirely. We understand that this may be seen as defeat or guilt by some parties but we feel its more about compliance and adaptivity. If a governing body feel that what we do is illegal we wish no part of it and will show willingness to comply by removing areas that may be in dispute. This isn't about acceptance of guilt, this is about removing anything that people deem offensive.

"DVDRS will reach its final evolvement and we hope you understand why and where we are heading. We also understand that DVDRS will always be seen, in light of recent press, as a site that dealt in illegal file sharing. We feel there is no way we can recover from this and thus will re-launch Talk DVD with some of DVDRS database and ideas. This decision has not come easy for us and it pains us to do so."

A timetable for the launch of Talk DVD has not been announced. To what extent this mitigates DVDRs.net's current legal situation remains to be seen, yet underscores the significance of the Newsgroups.


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Newsgroups/Usenet :: Indexing Sites

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