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back to article RIAA aims lawyers at usenet newsgroup service

The Recording Industry Ass. of America has now attacked a company that provides access to internet newsgroups. Last Friday, RIAA lawyers chucked a federal lawsuit at Usenet.com, claiming that the Fargo, North Dakota newsgroup service "enables and encourages" people to swap copyrighted music. The organization that represents …

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Well isn't this just lovely...

The RIAA is great. Running around yelling "MINE! MINE! MINE!" like a toddler wanting his blankey. My answer is to completely quit supporting anything to do with the RIAA in any way. These companies will eventually go under but it may take 50 years. When is the RIAA going to stop its "war on drugs" with mp3's cause it simply will not work. It never has and never will. Give me a reason to pay $20 for a CD and I will. So far, there has been none.

The RIAA needs to invest in product development and marketing and quit the SCO v. the world crusade they are trying to pull off with music and listeners.

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New?

"Today’s hottest way of sharing MP3 files over the Internet is Usenet"

the RIAA is pretty behind the times, then? Get the feeling this paperwork got started 20years ago, the guy writing it went off to do something to save his soul (ritual suicide, missionary work in Andes, wrote python compiler etc) and they just found it?

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Pirate

This is different...

Running a NNTP server requires you to *CHOOSE* which groups to receive. There was a concious choice by management or sysadmins at some point to include the alt.binaries.* leaf nodes

I am surprised they didn't go after usenext seeing it's much more visible and is associated with a lot of the p2p sites.

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Stupidity

"Last Friday, RIAA lawyers chucked a federal lawsuit at Usenet.com, claiming that the Fargo, North Dakota newsgroup service "enables and encourages" people to swap copyrighted music"

<sigh> Frankly, it's the typical RIAA "we can't go after the people who are actually breaking copyright so we'll go after everyone else" move.

What next? Sue the phone companies for knowingly providing bandwaidth used to share files. After all, those files *do* move around via the phone/adsl lines so therefore the Telcos are also responsible for the violations, right?

How about sueing the Postal Service for illegal CDs being mailed around? That's how they used to propagate, and the US Postal Service Had to know about it!

How about suing all arms manufacturers for producing products KNOWN to be used for illegal acts? Or anyone who manufactires knifes and box-cutters? At least one box-cutter was used to hi-jack a plane, so the companies can't feign ignorance, right?

<double-sigh> Stupid!

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Stop

Wait a minute...

<quote> claiming that the Fargo, North Dakota newsgroup service "enables and encourages" people to swap copyrighted music. </quote>

Hold on...Please tell me I mis-read that sentence.

Does this mean they will go after every Joe Average man-on-the street because his computer is equipped with a floppy drive, USB or CD-R?

Just because you have equipment which *enables* you to do something, does that mean your a criminal?

I might have to report every female on the planet, because they have the equipment that enables her to commit prostitution, or every male because he has the equipment that enables him to commit rape.

When will these Judges, pollies & ISP's stand up to this schoolyard bully and tell them that they should not be treating their customers like they are pirates.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that stealing someone's property is wrong, but they are no better. They just take lots of money from the customer, and give a small percentage to the artist. Who is the pirate?

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Legal pressure? Try resource pressure...

"I know just from talking to lawyers from recording industry lawyers that they've had their eye on usenet groups for a quite awhile," von Lohmann told The Reg. "My impression is that most commercial ISPs have given up on binary newsgroups under pressure from the entertainment industry."

Funny, it was my impression that most commercial ISPs stopped carrying the binary newsgroups because they took up massive amounts of bandwidth and disk for a very small number of users. I know that small and medium ISPs were finding it impractical to maintain full newsfeeds 10 years ago, and the situation has only gotten worse as time has gone on.

@Craig Foster: Actually, they should still be protected by the DMCA. See, as their business is in carrying USENET groups, they can simply say that they carry everything of which they aware has passed the group creation process. This take the question of choice out of their hands altogether.

Of course, even if they were cherry picking groups, it still wouldn't reduce their DMCA protection one bit - any more than it would reduce the DMCA protection of a website with chat forums that were created with titles chosen by the site, but otherwise left open for the users to post and read as they liked. So, it looks like your argument is flawed coming and going.

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alt.binary.

Many years ago I was working at a company that develops computer and computer peripheral chips. At one point, we turned off all the alt.binary groups. Only to have the group working on an audio chip come screaming to us, since they were both receiving and posting audio clips. Of course, that was back in the "good old days", when the only thing out there was home grown music and faked nudes of actresses. (I still have a nice one of Gates McFadden around some where :-)

I suspect that the RIAA will have a tough time of it. I hope they do.

And el Reg, you don't have a middle finger to choose from.

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Hide your midi files

next thing you know they will be going after BBS. Better erase all those 5.25 floppies and whats the command to format RLL hard drive ??

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Flame

No more purchases

Nearly all of my CD purchases in the last 12 years have been based on music I found on the Internet. The radio stations around here are useless for finding new music because they don't dare play anything more than the industry singles.

Now I won't be able to find new music on Usenet, P2P, or the radio. That leaves me with nothing but a 20 second sound bite, the cover art, and maybe a garble-fi YouTube video as tools to find new music. I need more convincing than that, especially when every music purchase feels like giving money to a criminal organization.

I'll rip all my older CD into iTunes for another listen. I need something to listen to until the music industry's suicide is complete.

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Difference between alt.binaries.* and everything else?

I haven't used newsgroups for quite some time (probably ten years or so), but I don't recall there actually being a difference between the binary groups and the rest of the newsgroups aside from the title. From what I recall, everything was ASCII anyways and had to be decoded (uuencode, or something) from a pile of messages. It wasn't a particularly straightforward process, but I suppose that may well have changed since then. Is there a technical difference?

At any rate, this seems likely to be protected under the DMCA. It will be interesting to see how they go about attacking this one.

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Pirate

i'm in ur usenet

Weak.

I've long wondered how the RIAA would try and go after usenet. I suppose it's too much to hope for that the recording industry will collapse before these suits result in widespread abandonment of binaries groups.

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not exactly shedding a tear

can't say I'm exactly shedding a tear, since the whole concept of posting binaries on news servers in the first place was essentially an attempt to dodge bandwidth bills by making ISPs shoulder the burden. let's face it, if NNTP had been intended as a file transfer protocol, it would've handled 8-bit encodings. Given that there's no reason any sane person would *choose* to transfer files over NNTP other than in order to rip *somebody* off (whether it's the RIAA, MPAA, their ISP, or some other random acronym), I don't really see that this is a problem.

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RIAA hurts sales

I've not purchased anything from a member company of the RIAA for a couple of years now. Know what? Haven't missed it a bit. All the good stuff is mostly by independents and the like anyway. The more they sue people, the harder I look at exactly what I'm buying and who I'm supporting when I do.

It's about time their member companies realized that the actions of the RIAA are hurting them more than helping them. Unfortunately, I think they've lost track of their real purpose, which is to sell more music. It isn't to alienate as many of their potential customers as possible. They've forgotten that the RIAA member companies are NOT the only choice for music out there.

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sane person

"Given that there's no reason any sane person would *choose* to transfer files over NNTP other than in order to rip *somebody* off"

Rather blinkered and short sighted there old chap.

Try the difference between 6KBps and just possibly completing your dl in under a week (assuming the seeds don't all disappear) on p2p or 300KB per sec on a very well seeded post and a full out screaming down at your maximum bandwidth rate from news servers.

Try the fact that despite what it says in the report above most ISPs still run local news servers or at least the last 3 I have worked at did so the traffic is over their local network rather than over p2p with the large transit bills that implies.

In fact the only reason to use another method is to deliberately throttle the speed users can get your content and to raise the costs of providing said content.

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Alert

Whats Next?

FTP? Telnet? Gopher?

Maybe the RIAA needs to shut down the Internet completely because they will never stop file swapping.

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Jobs Horns

Will they...

...sue Microsoft, Apple or Linux developers (or any other OS manufacturer) since it's these OS's that the MP3s are played on?

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Anonymous Coward

@Andrew Tyler

Everything is still in ASCII and still need to be uuencoded/decoded.

alt.binaries.* was somewhere to keep ASCII coded binary files in one place for easy finding.

I don't think there is anything stopping people from moving to other directories.

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@Adam Williamson / NNTP

"let's face it, if NNTP had been intended as a file transfer protocol, it would've handled 8-bit encodings"

Better stop using POP3 and SMTP then. No more e-mail attachments for you.

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Reading between the lines....

And if you read between the lines.....RIAA decides to focus on a U.S. based company (Dakota according to the story?) instead of a Swedish one (Thepiratebay), as TPB is making them look bad by not giving a shit what they say.

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The free music pirates whine again....

I'm amazed this has took so long. Any decent news server carrying the binary groups is absolutely bloated with MP3s (along with DVDs, warez, etc). The same principles apply to NNTP as they do to P2P; artificial arguments about having some kind of imaginary "right" to post other peoples' material is utterly fatuous.

The other argument "Just because you have equipment which *enables* you to do something, does that mean your a criminal?" is the same kind of rubbish. If you are stopped by the Police carrying knives, lock picking equipment, crow-bars, push daggers, certain aerosols and solvents, you can be arrested under suspicion of being equipped to commit an offence, they don't even have to be restricted items like firearms. The law can really only say that it's reasonable you're going to use this for breaking the law in the same way that most of the alt.binaries groups really only have an illegitimate purpose. Of course they can be used lawfully but to be honest I've never seen an MP3-based binary newsgroup that had any legally distributable music in it whatsoever. It's really on how probable it is you're going to commit an offence, most men aren't going to rape anyone in the same most women aren't prostitutes (the fact anyone even cited that as an example is pretty fucking warped anyway).

The idea that we're going to stop buying music because these illegitimate sources are going to be closed down is entirely dishonest. There are dozens of legal sources where you can preview music before purchase whether it's TV, radio, from listening points in record stores where scanning the bar-code from any CD will let you listen to the whole album, from previews on Amazon, iTunes and record company web sites. I would imagine the numbers of illegal downloads that translate into actual CD sales are tiny; anyone that's ever downloaded music will tell you how few CDs they buy. The "I need downloads so I know what CDs to buy" is a dishonest and untruthful scam - who's going to buy the cow when you already get the milk for free?

There is no doubt the music industry is rotten from the inside-out and needs huge reform. The problem is belligerently breaking the law will not advance this process at all. Expecting your music to be free, the implicit demand of every downloader, is also utterly ridiculous. People have completely lost their way in thinking this should be free because they accept it as normal.

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Pirate

@Adam Williamson

I presume you feel the same way about transferring files by email, as SMTP isn't designed for file transfer and doesn't handle 8 bit encodings...

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Anonymous Coward

MUTE and Tor hidden services

...look like the best way forward. That's all I'm saying. Haven't found a really good MUTE servent for Linux, but I may write one if I find time.

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Pirate

@Andrew Tyler

yes the binary groups are still largly posted as ascii

each file is normally cut up into ~50mb chuncks which are then again spilt into 50+ ascii posts

as for the not straight forward method of downloading there are apps like newsleecher that will do all the file merging and downloading for you

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Faster than a speeding bullet?

"Today’s hottest way of sharing MP3 files over the Internet is Usenet; forget about all the peer-to-peer software applications, which quickly become outdated,"

Todays hottest way?

What?

Aside from the fact that Usenet has been going since the 80's, and the fact that probably the first mp3 ever made will have apeared on Usenet many years before any p2p apps took off, just goes to show how out of touch the RIAA is.

Usenet is hardly the hottest way, its probably the most inconvenient way to share files. The only times I have ever tried to download anything big, there is always 1 part of a 300 part rar file missing or corrupted. Maybe the RIAA have been faking files on there for years?

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Pirate

But...

Beyond the rights and wrongs of file-sharing, however, are we really prepared to have private companies and their lobby groups shut down our channels of communication? Binaries are a big part of Usenet, but more than most other systems that CAN be used for file-sharing, Usenet is used for the LEGITIMATE transfer of information (including binaries). It starts to look like authoritarian censorship after a while - for commercial gain.

However, unlike P2P, Usenet as a system has some money behind it, and can probably put up a decent legal fight. It's also highly distributed, so hard to shut down if source-servers are simply moved abroad. So I think the RIAA has bitten off more than it can chew this time. We'd better hope so anyway. If they can shut down any system that CAN carry infringing material (and they show every sign of intending to do so) , then say goodbye to the information society.

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Pirate

Much as I hate to...

...side with the bottom feeding scum, I feel in this case they have some point. From usenet.com:

"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."

"Don't forget that with Usenet.com, you get:

[...snip...] Free movies, pictures, software, music, games, and much more"

And that's today. From what I remembered, when someone showed me the sight a while back it was covered with references to "gigabytes of free MP3's" and "thousands of movies". It would appear that they've toned down their site (I can't check the Wayback machine, because it doensn't archive usenet.com).

If you're building a business on letting people make illegal downloads then you should at least have the balls to admit it. How many people would PAY for a usenet service if they weren't downloading MP3's or questionable porn from the binaries groups? If there are any people that pay for usenet.com's service that DONT use it for illegal downloads, then they are definitely a minority and not the people that usenet.com are aiming their marketing at.

On the other hand, how RIAA can claim "damages" from someone distributing for free a product that RIAA willingly give away free (on the radio and through libraries) just seems bizzarre. Sharing MP3's may be ethically wrong, but I believe the RIAA (and similar organisations in other nations) vastly overstate the damage done by fans of music exchanging music. Remember:

"Home taping is killing music" - no it didn't

"CD Burners will kill music" - No they didn't

"MP3's killed the radio star" - No they won't.

I for one have bought CD's and gone to concerts to see bands that I wouldn't have found out about if someone handn't given me a tape, CD or MP3 of for free. It's called marketting.

So I guess my point is that usenet.com are merely profiting from a market that RIAA have created by their asinine insistance on sueing their customers. Ironic?

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Alert

Right, they've lost my money

Ok, this has been going on too long, and I'm sick of that immature industry trying to stay in the loop and playing gung-ho to get there.

I'm going to stick to my torrents and everything, and will only purchase music if it's offered directly from the artist (aka Radiohead).

This will likely mean I will stop downloading/buying new music for a while as I would not want to cheat artists out of money.

I gave up on CDs in 1999 at the age of 16 when I fell in love with the flexibility of mp3s. It was my equivalent of your tape-deck mixing/first CDs/first LPs - a real watershed moment.

I've now been waiting 8 years for someone/anyone to take advantage of this medium to get me music. It's been technically possible since that time but the only providers have been illegal.

As no-one's taking any initiative, I will penalise them back. No money spent on music until further notice.

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Stop

Here we go again

I'm surprise the Chief Vulture enabled comments on this one as its blatantly going to go round the same "RIAA scumbags" vs "Thieving freeloaders" loop as all the others.

In this case, couldn't Usenet.com, EasyNews, Usenext and others just pay a levy to the RIAA, which they could pass on as a small increase in their currently quite low subscription rates?

@Craig Foster: Isn't Usenext based in Germany? Which would make them a harder target.

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Unhappy

It's about time these criminals were brought to justice.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely that the Us "Justice" system will convict the members of the Recording Arse the same way they would another crime syndicate.

Ah, well, looks like I'll only be buying albums by Radiohead, Marillion and those available through the likes of Bleep in future.

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Pirate

weren't they asking for it?

Obviously if usenet.com promote their service as a file download service, and also promote a news leecher on their front page they are going to attract attention. Most providers I know just sell newsgroup access - not "2 million new files every day!".

@ Andrew Tyler: Downloading from newsgroups has become much easier indeed. NZB files are one first thing that helps, and there are countless leecher apps. You no longer need to browse newsgroups basically. Browsing newsgroups is actually probably more difficult now.

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Gold badge

8-Bit encodings

Most news servers do handle 8-bit encodings. Yenc allows for smaller downloads as it uses 8-bit.

As for the RIAA action, they'd be happy if the Internet simply didn't exist. Media caveman who act like the mafia.

People will always copy things, it's better someone downloads an mp3 than steals the CD from the shop.

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Anonymous Coward

RIAA... Quit Winging - you are boring me now!

RIAA - winging yet again. When are they going to wake up and smell the coffee? The more they target individuals and organisations, the more people will bite back! If they were to get with the program and offer an online facility, with a comprehensive library of tracks, that allowed people to download media directly at a fair price and with a fair percentage of the royalties going to the artist, I for one would be inclined to use it - and I suspect most other people would too.

It's not Rocket Science!

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MP3 =/= Copyright

As a sound engineer, I routinely send and receive MP3 files over the internet, using all manner of protocols. They're mostly my recordings or recordings made by friends or colleagues of mine. A lot of them are songs, some are sound effects, some are individual elements of either.

None of them have had their rights assigned to the RIAA.

MP3 can be used for purposes other than ripping off the music industry. Someone needs to point that out to them.

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Ash

Another nail in the coffin

It's just another reason to boycott these major companies.

I'm not saying I won't pay for my music; i'd LOVE to be able to mail a £10 cheque to Maynard James Keenan or Trent Reznor (Actually, I can with these two. Puscifer's V is for Vagina" is sans label, and I believe "Year Zero" is self published. Awesome.)

I've always thought that this would be acceptible as a means of licensing music. I'd even send the RIAA a couple of pounds to cover the costs they incur. We all know it doesn't cost £12 per CD to make them even INCLUDING advertising, so stop ripping off musicians and artists like it does.

Corporate f*ckpigs.

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WTF

Where do these people get thier facts from?

Oh yeah the rabbit told them after they pulled it from a hat..

It just shows how on the ball these RIAA fools are, I mean how long has NNTP been around, a wee bit longer than torrents and other p2p me thinks, maybe a decade or 2 longer.....

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FYI

http://www.binaries4all.com/beginners/

If you guys want to get yourselves a bit familiar with the whole binary posting process.

I am a regular user of the usenet, and I can tell you, piracy is rampant there. But I doubt the RIAA will get anything out of this.

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Doh

I'm surprised its taken this long for them to go after newsgroups. At one point when it were a hassle to browse countless newsfeeds for anything half decent it was easy to get yourself on a private torrent tracker or even dear i say it kazaa. These days nzb files make newsgroups so incredibly easy, coupled with ssl encryption your a dam fool to do the dodge in any other form.

Its a bloody shame, like others i base all my CD purchases on trying before i buy. After falling victim countless tgimes to one decent track played on the radio and 14 other pieces of utter shit theres no way i'll purchase an album for the scanty clad lady on the front of the CD again, its just not worth it.

Movie piracy? well thats a different ball game all together. 300 in blu-ray format at 36gb... Awesome!!

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Boffin

binary newsgroups

Andrew:

You're right, technically there's no difference between binary newsgroups & any others. The distinction is in what the users of the group choose to allow (particularly if the group is 'chartered', which usenet sysadmins will generally enforce to some extent upon request) and in the way the host decides to handle spooling and turnover.

Text qua text takes up very little storage space, and so a discussion group might reasonably expect that their provider can store the entire history of the group, or at least a very extensive chunk of the ongoing discussion. Binary groups, on the other hand, take up an enormous amount of storage space; no host can manage to store all of that content for long, and so each provider will determine what binary 'retention' they can manage to provide -- anything from a day or two up to a couple of months.

This sort of purpose-driven retention policy is much easier to implement if the binary groups follow a well-defined nomenclature -- hence the alt.binaries.* standard.

As for the mechanics of posting or receiving binary files: yeah, it's mostly the same as it's ever been (with a few technical innovationshhhhhhhhhhh such as yEnc) but advances in both server-side and client-side implementation have made the process much more transparent to the end user.

Joshua Englehart

Saratoga, CA

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Paris Hilton

nntp & smtp

Isn't NNTP a spin off from SMTP arn't they very similar to each other? both client & Server host based etc??

How long before hotmail/yahoo/[Mail provider of choice] is fingered for facilitating copying of digital files? 'you mean the files were stored on thier servers?'

I'm of to mail my audio files to myself, via a mail provider I dont like...

PS where the Ass of America Icon?

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Coat

sad sad sad

"next thing you know they will be going after BBS. Better erase all those 5.25 floppies and whats the command to format RLL hard drive ??"

g-c800:5

I'll get my coat...

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Going after Usenet was only a matter of time

Maybe someone should whisper into the RIAA's ear that all IP communications are inherently P2P, maybe then when they try to have the whole internet taken down they'll get shot down like they so richly deserve.

That said, Usenet.com are idiots for having advertised the way they did, it was a incredible faux-pas which deserves to be punished.

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@Daniel

Daniel : "Of course, even if they were cherry picking groups, it still wouldn't reduce their DMCA protection one bit - any more than it would reduce the DMCA protection of a website with chat forums that were created with titles chosen by the site, but otherwise left open for the users to post and read as they liked. So, it looks like your argument is flawed coming and going."

I don't think a judge will accept that simplified argument. If I choose to mirror (unadulterated) a specific thread or section of a forum whose sole purpose is distribution of illegal music, then I have overstepped the protection of the DMCA. If I blanket mirrored the whole original forum site (without applying any filtering or manual alteration on my part) then the DMCA stands. DMCA requires you to not interfere with the traffic - once you do you're "able to filter" and then become responsible for it's remaining content.

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@Parax

Beware what you wish for... someone out there could still have a goatse icon handy o_O

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Black Helicopters

Utterly unenforcable

This is pointless, usenet.com only host a copy of what thousands upon thousands of other NNTP hosts do.

Plus the groups do contain LEGAL stuff you know, the best they can do is force usenet.com to filter their feeds. Which will cost a fortune, and the second its attempted every single customer will move to another provider. And so the dance continues, the only ones loving all this is the lawyers.

If the RIAA think they can shut the Usenet network down like they did Kazaa they are in for a fucking shock.

It'd be like shutting down the internet one ISP at a time.

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@Michael Fletcher

---

They're mostly my recordings or recordings made by friends or colleagues of mine. A lot of them are songs, some are sound effects, some are individual elements of either.

None of them have had their rights assigned to the RIAA.

---

True. But isn't it true that if you play a piece of music that you wrote in a public place, then the PRS will want money from you in order to "recompense the artist"? And if you are the artist in question, and not a member of the PRS, that is just tough, pal, hand over the money?

These people simply want to own music, in whatever way, shape or form it takes.

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Gold badge

Missed a trick.

Heads up to the RIAA.

If someone drives past with their windows open or someone leaves their house windows open I can hear the music that they are playing. This is 'cos sound waves propogate in AIR. The RIAA needs to sue the atmosphere now to prevent it illegally disseminating copyrighted content. They must obtain a cease and desist order and get all air removed from the planet. Now, it's true people need to breath air, but since it is obviously a mechanism for enabling music piracy and this far outweighs any other use we may be getting out of it we're all just going to have to learn to get along without it.

I'd put a "joke alert" icon here, but you never know............

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Joke

This just in...

...RIAA executives found on beach waving legal papers at tide; tide refuses to comply. RIAA declared "bunch of Cnuts".

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@ Craig Foster

LOL... like the new olymic logo, eh beeb?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:BBC_Goatse.cx_Alternative_Olympic_logo.png

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Law
Pirate

lol

I've been using giganews for years, and recently they upped their retention to 100 days and offer 256bit SSL encryption... best newshost ever!!

How are they going to go after http based portals then like easynews? Should be fun to see how the RIAA gets wrapped up in this one... how many lies are thrown out in court, how many customers they intend to prosecute, and how many laws they are willing to break in their quest, for example making companies hosting this stuff have to go against their stated privacy policies.

Fun times indeed! :)

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Usenet Embeded

NNTP and Usenet have been around since the beginning of the internet (almost). It is unlikely that RIAA will ever be able to shut it down. P2P could have done it before the RIAA got involved just because it was so much easier. Historically Usenet is the most complicated way to share binary files which makes most of the people who use it among the best educated and computer savvy of all internet users.

So, I suspect that there will be a form of subject coding developed in the near future to hide the content of the binaries posted. Probably something similar as when we used to hide files on the college FTP servers... And just as it use to, the codes will have to change frequently to stay ahead of the admins (RIAA).

Does Gopher still work?? I thought it had died a few years ago from lack of use.

Note: Usenet != Usenet.com

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