Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 12:41 UK

Film studios win Usenet download case

Hollywood sign, BBC
The film studios claimed the site helped people pirate movies

Hollywood film studios have won a court case against a website they accused of aiding piracy.

Newzbin was a search site that helped users navigate around the vast number of Usenet discussion forums.

The film studios took the site to court claiming it helped its paying members download movies far faster than would be possible otherwise.

In its defence, Newzbin said it was just a search site that did not host any pirated material

Bit parts

The High Court in London said Newzbin ran a "sophisticated technical" operation and had generated a "substantial" business as a result.

"I have found that the defendant well knows that it is making available to its premium members infringing copies of films," said Mr Justice Kitchin in his ruling.

Movies and video clips uploaded to Usenet are typically split into many separate chunks. Newzbin was accused of indexing all the parts so downloaders could locate all the bits for a film and download them en masse.

Premium members of Newzbin paid 30p a week subscription to be able to download from the site. The member-only site is thought to have had more than 700,000 users.

"This is an important decision," said Ted Shapiro, the Motion Picture Association's general counsel for Europe. "It sends a clear message that websites focusing on providing viewers with pirated film and TV programmes infringe copyright and are liable for their actions even where those websites don't themselves host the content."

The MPA investigates copyright infringement for many Hollywood studios including Disney, Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox.

Newzbin said it was "very disappointed" with the judgement.

"Sadly the MPA are stuck in a technology stone age," it said in a statement. "Rather than addressing their own broken business models and monopolistic commercial practices they seek to curtail innovation and freedom on the internet."

It added: "Any of the material we index can be found on any one of a thousands of sites on the internet so pursuit of us is a futile waste of everyone's time and money."

Newzbin said it was now assessing its legal options and was considering an appeal.

The exact terms of the judgement against Newzbin are due to be released in early April. The film studios have been granted an injunction which stops downloads of their films via Newzbin. The site will also face a claim for damages in a future hearing.

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