The society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights (GEMA) reports a legal victory over one of the popular German Usenet providers UseNext. The court’s decision is explained as a legal demand to prevent copyright infringement for songs of artists having contract with GEMA. In other case the provider will take the full responsibility for the damage.
GEMA is a state-authorized collecting society based in Germany. Many Internet sites like YouTube, various file-hosting providers and Usenet services have to deal with this organization in the past. Usenet remains still the main target of GEMA, but it’s not easy to achieve positive results.
Usenet is not a classical file-hosting or -sharing system: content will not be stored on the computers of the users like on BitTorrent and also not stored on any central server like on file-hosting services like RapidShare. Usenet works with decentralized server system, what means that files are stored all over the world on many public and private servers. It’s always hard to find a responsible person to send the DMCA request. Many servers are located in countries where Europe doesn’t have any effect on.
Another one problem is that content in Usenet is hard to identify. The reason for this is that it will be posted as text message with attached files (like standard E-Mail-system). Usenet is uncensored network, it means that there is no any single organization that would be responsible for it. The structure of newsgroups makes it difficult to blick through tons of uploaded files.
The fact that a Usenet service is an access and not content provider transfers the responsibility for downloading of illegal content on the user. Similar as your Internet Service Provider is not responsible for files you download from Internet sites. This is the reason why Usenet was always a dark zone for copyright holders and courts. If you compare the amount of copyright-infringing material uploaded to Usenet daily and the legal actions against different Usenet services, you will see that results are relatively rare. There were some small victories in the past: legal action against Giganews from adult industry (the provider is still active), court’s decision against Usenet.com that was initiated by RIAA and some more small victories - just some that can be mentioned.
Some weeks ago we’ve heard about the latest legal action against the German Usenet giant UseNext - the Munich-based operator for Usenet access. Since many years, GEMA wanted to make the provider responsible for files that users download. UseNext’s arguments were that they provide only access to the public network and can not track the data transfer to see content inside the transferred files. The main reason for this problems can be a fact that UseNext works with many movie, music, games and software sites, where you can see them advertising illegal downloading of files. The German courts see this methods as instruction for the user on how to get file for free.
The regional court in Hamburg obtained a legal action against UseNext for 10 tracks from GEMA’s members. It’s not clear which sum has to be paid, but it’s clear that it would be not so dramatically. UseNext will continue working on providing of Usenet access to German customers.
The GEMA CEO Dr. Harald Heker mentioned that this victory is a positive signal for all copyright owners to continue the battle. He also underlines that services, whose business model is based on the illegal downloading of files protected by copyrights, owe the artists a compensation.
GEMA fights for extending the responsibility of Usenet providers for the content that will be downloaded by the users. The practice over last years shows that this would be not possible. If that would be the case, then an Internet provider would be also responsible for all actions the customers do in Internet. This would lead to total control and censoring of Internet - this would the beginning of the end for our society.
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