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The first rule about newsgroup lawsuits is, you do not talk about newsgroup lawsuits

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is taking aim at Usenet newsgroup providers, though has only targeted one particular company so far.  The RIAA filed a lawsuit against Usenet.com on Oct. 12, claiming the newsgroups harbors "millions of copyrighted sound recordings."  

Usenet is a relatively centralized method for users to distribute files and messages created before the Internet or peer-to-peer technology was created.  Unlike traditional peer-to-peer networks, Usenet hosts its files on hub servers at Internet backbones instead of client nodes.  This advantage gives newsgroups extremely fast download speeds, but steep learning curve and limitted access keeps the userbase relatively low.

The protocol has stayed relatively "under the radar" in the wake of Napster, Kazaa and other P2P networks. Even though the popularity of Usenet has been on the decline since the late 1990s, the service never fully died out, and remains popular for images, videos and binary file sharing.

According to the legal brief, the defendant, Usenet, "provides essentially the same functionality that P2P services such as Napster, Aimster, Grokster and Kazaa did (prior to being enjoined by the federal courts) -- knowingly providing the site and facilities for users to upload and download copyrighted works -- except that defendant goes further than even the P2P services to facilitate and encourage copyright infringement by its users." 

A copy of the lawsuit can be found by on Wired.com (PDF).  

The RIAA seeks unspecified monetary damages and "injunctive relief for copyright infringement."

Marketing on the Usenet.com web site likely does not help its case against the RIAA:  "Shh... Quiet! We believe it’s no one’s business but your own what you do on the Internet or in Usenet.  We don't track user activity."

The RIAA's up-and-down battle against file sharing continues, both with battle victories and losses.  The RIAA won a civil court battle over a Minnesota woman, who must now pay $222,000 worth of damages to the record industry. 

In addition, more than 400 "prelitigation" letters have been sent by the RIAA to 19 U.S. universities across the country. An example of a letter sent to an alleged filesharer is available on EDUCAUSE (PDF).




"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007



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