RIAA Wins Layup Against Usenet.com

from the too-easy dept

When the RIAA first sued Usenet.com, we thought it could make for an interesting case. After all, you could make a decent argument that there are a ton of non-infringing uses of Usenet. However, as the details came out, it became pretty clear that Usenet.com dug its own grave, so it should be no surprise at all that a judge was quick to side with the RIAA. There are two main things at issue: first, it appears that Usenet.com may have destroyed evidence -- shades of TorrentSpy. It doesn't matter how the rest of the case shakes out -- if you're caught destroying evidence, you're already at the bottom of a big, big hill. Not only that, but in explaining the destroyed evidence, they gave contradictory explanations suggesting they then lied about the destruction of evidence. Another major no-no. The second issue was that the folks at Usenet.com were incredibly blatant in advertising its services for infringing on copyrighted materials. Whether you agree with the Grokster "contributory" infringement concept or not, it is the rule that the courts need to follow, and there does seem to be rather overwhelming evidence that Usenet.com regularly promoted the fact that it was a better way to infringe on copyrights. So, while the RIAA will again crow about this victory, it's a victory over an egregious player in the space who appears to have gone way over the line.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 5:55am

    "Usenet.com regularly promoted the fact that it was a better way to infringe on copyrights"

    Why does this sound an awful lot like TPB?

     

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  2.  
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    AJ, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 6:34am

    Why bother...

    What a waste of time for the AA's, so they shut down Usenet, WTH did that acomplish? There is a small army of hosting sites that are searchable, and that contain the exact same data, not counting the torrents.

    You have to remove the demand to stop the problem, and we know by now, thats not going to happen. So if you can't remove the demand, and you would like continue to make money and not die a slow painful death, you adapt.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    How does this sound like TPB?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 6:43am

    Re: Why bother...

    AJ, you need to think past the end of your nose on this. With a judgement against "usenet.com", they can now pretty much set out against ANY usenet reseller, and they already have part of the game won.

    Since usenet (not the site, but the thing) isn't very cohesive, it shouldn't be difficult actually to start winning near strawman style victories and start clearing it out, creating a whole pile of "shutting down copyright violation sites", which in turn is more ammo going forward.

    Jammie Thomas, usenet.com, TPB, and likely Tenenbaum are the types of judgements that show that the RIAA may have in fact turned the legal corner on all of this and finally found the right hammer for the job.

     

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  5.  
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    Greg, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re:

    I assume he's referring to the flagrant disregard for copywrite law, which is sort of the hallmark of The Pirate Bay.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re:

    BRAG

     

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  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 6:50am

    Anyone else?

    Am I the only one thinking deja vu on this stuff recently? This past year or so is smacking of the late 90's, early 2000's, no?

    Big content distributors circling the wagons instead of trading with the indians....

     

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  8.  
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    MadJo (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 6:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Except that TPB follows the Swedish copyright law to the letter.

     

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  9.  
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    AJ, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re: Why bother...

    "AJ, you need to think past the end of your nose on this."

    By "shutting down sites" is the key phrase in your argument. Even if they shut down every single "Site" they won't stop file sharing. If there is demand, there will be people that fill it. All they are doing is forcing the people to decentralize the files/trackers, and in some cases encrypt them.

    So they won a "victory" over TPB. The torrents didn't vanish. The files are still there. All they did was shut down/sold out a searchable site hosting trackers. I can do a simple search for filetype:torrent on google and find all the trackers i need for anthing that's available. People can host the trackers in places that don't really give a damn about our laws. Then what?

    All I'm saying is this one of the worlds larges wack-a-mole games. As long as there is demand, another mole will pop up.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 7:29am

    Well, this is it. No more piracy ever.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 7:56am

    Re:

    Doesn't sound like TPB at all. You might wana check your hearing.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: Why bother...

    What AJ is saying here is that ultimately it's pointless regardless of their victories. Programs, sites, all of this stuff has been squashed in the past. But piracy keeps growing.

    If you have a cancer patient with a headache do you spend all your efforts and resources trying to alleviate the headache or try to treat the cancer?

    Piracy is a headache, it's not the cancer killing their bottom line. And as long as the cancer is left to grow the headache will keep coming back and probably getting worse.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Why bother...

    While these maybe precedents to use in future cases against Usenet service resellers, torrent sites, and individuals, Usenet.com != Usenet; TPB != torrent; Jammie Thomas != every other individual file sharer.

    These groups do not have the resources to go after everyone...it's a simple as that.

    It's kinda like trying to stop murder by convicting a murderer or an organized crime racket. As it's been put before: it's an unwinnable game of whack-a-mole.

    With the amount of resources they've put into the legal response to file-sharing, they probably could have seeded a number of potential business models/platforms to use the demand for their content in order to make money by taking advantage of file-sharing.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 8:06am

    Re:

    Well lets see, TPB did nothing wrong got a biased judge got a ruling that makes no sense and sold their site at the height of popularity (arguable who gets the money anyways)...

    usenet destroys evidence and lies in court and waggled their internet penis everywhere flying in the face of reason...

    Yea these two sound very similar. Congrats with your pattern recognition!

     

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  15.  
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    Brian (profile), Jul 1st, 2009 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Apparently not

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    However, the more difficult you make things, and the more times you need to "whack" the mole, the more people drop out. After all, there is an opportunity cost to "whacking" the mole and the harder it is, the cheaper it is to buy a CD, download music from a legal site, or not listen at all.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Pricing of CD vs Vinyl

    I was looking up Vinyl pricing vs CD pricing a few months ago.

    From a wholesale perspective, I can have 1000 CDs pressed for the same price of 100 Vinyl Records. Then I remembered when CDs came out and they were priced higher than a record (1980s market value).

    A CD should cost a lot less than a record. Adjusted for inflation, I say around $4.99 would be more than a fair, market-driven price.

    But as #16 says, whack a mole is the business method of the day.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    Ding! Winner! You got it!

    Everyone seems to talk is absolutes, thinking it is a question between EVERYONE downloads and NOBODY downloads. That isn't the case.

    The reality right now is that too many people who shouldn't be technically able to download, shouldn't want to break the law (or violate a contract) are doing it because they don't think there is an issue. Judgement like this, like Jammie Thomas, like TPB, all have an influence on what people think about their acts.

    Making file sharing less cool and higher risks shifts some people back to being paying customers (buying CDs, online sales, listening to radio that pays fees, etc) and away from the dark side.

    It won't fix the entire problem (there will always be people willing to break the law), but a little shift could be a tipping point in the battle.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    hahah...hahaha....HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA oh crap my sides hurt! Every time they whack things have gotten EASIER and MORE people are getting into it!

    Welcome to planet earth! I see you haven't been here long, but I suggest you look into the 90s and probably start around when Napster started out then follow the chain of events up to today. I say Napster cause that is about when it started to hit the main stream.

     

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  20.  
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    AJ, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    I disagree. File sharing is growing, and will continue to grow because the AA's are not giving the customers what they want, they are giving them what they want them to have.

    "However, the more difficult you make things, and the more times you need to "whack" the mole, the more people drop out."

    They may knock down a few very public "in your face" web/hosting sites, but for every one of those there are hundreds of private networks. What they are doing is driving it further underground and making it harder to track/control. Soon they will loose the opertunity to exploit the system they hate so much, and it will be their own fault.

     

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  21.  
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    Trerro, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 11:54am

    They won because people don't understand Usenet

    Usenet is a giant ad hoc network, consisting mainly of TEXT-ONLY groups. It's essentially the world's oldest forum system. It also has binary groups for sending files, and of course, a lot of copyrighted stuff is uploaded - but so is a lot of perfectly valid stuff. It's an open network.

    What's interesting about Usenet is the ad hoc part. There are no Usenet "sites". You post a message to a server, which in turn feeds it to other servers, and so on, until it reaches the whole network. This means that even tiny servers can contribute, but it also means there's no one definitive version of a group (a Usenet forum is called a newsgroup) - some servers auto-filter blatant spam, or block messages from servers that are known to be used almost exclusively by spammers, others just take everything. Any filtering that is done is automated though - no one can possibly sift through the sheer volume of material on the network.

    The other thing with Usenet is that with a very small percentage of exceptions, groups are completely unmoderated - if you're not getting a post and it isn't blatant spam, it's because you personally configured your newsreader to ignore a subject/person/server/whatever.

    Usenet has over 200,000 groups, with millions of users and a couple of million messages per day. This makes it an incredible valuable source of discussion and information on basically every topic imaginable, as well as a good source of files, especially if you want to find something obscure that you aren't likely to find elsewhere - such as stuff that was free to distribute, but got lost when the site that made it died. Of course, as Usenet pre-dates any effective method for dealing with spammers and trolls, you do have to sift through more crap than on modern forums, but it's still a useful resource.

    Here's the thing: imagine trying to manage that. No one could possibly afford to check something of that scale for infringing or criminal material.

    Usenet is pretty much the textbook example of why we have safe harbor laws. I can't think of any modern website that has the amount of user-created content flowing through it that Usenet does. If someone running servers for that can be sued, what about people running servers for smaller networks... that's pretty much everyone with a website, chat room, IRC network, forum system, chat room, etc. It could also potentially include webhosts, and yes, even ISPs - Usenet isn't part of the web, and someone operating a newsserver is closer in function to an ISP than a webhost.

    While it's true that usenet.com lost mainly due to some frankly stupid marketing practices, and it's also true that there's a gazillion Usenet server companies (as well as free ones in a lot of colleges) you can use even if they get shut down, the fact still remains that a service provider just got sued - successfully - for user-uploaded content. Usenet's primary purpose is NOT file sharing, it's thread-based discussion like in a modern forum system.

    It scares me that Usenet is being used for these lawsuits (first that ridiculous Cuomo one and now this), not only because Usenet is still quite valuable despite being ancient in internet terms, but because despite its few million users, that amounts to 1-2% of 'net users. If all of Usenet died next week, most of the world wouldn't even notice... but the number of scary legal precedences set would quickly come to haunt people who would only know to fight back when it's already too late. Let's hope this gets more mainstream coverage.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    It's the point exactly - if it goes from a public thing to a private thing, overall file sharing will drop, which is the intention. Right now it is too public, akin to drug dealing on a street corner. If the efforts bring it down to drug dealing only in the back booth of the local bar, then things have improved (and actually have improved for both sides).

    My personal feeling (no numbers to back this up, just dealing with people) is that probably half the people trading files today would stop if they thought they might get caught. Most of them can afford to buy the music / movies they really want to see, often they are just downloading to be part of a community and not because they particularly need to download anything. One person I know well has enough music on her laptop that she has to burn the overflow off the DVD data discs every other day to keep enough free space. She NEVER, EVER reloads any of that data.

    If music sharing was just OINK, then it would be probably acceptable compared to the widespread open sharing that is currently out there. RIAA and MPAA and all are smart enough to know you can't win the war on file sharing, but you can put a dent in it big enough to shift the industry.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 12:33pm

    The number of commercial Usenet providers is well within the copyright industry's lawsuit capabilities.

    The award in the usenet.com case will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    With that as precedent, the other commercial Usenet providers will be asked if they want to fold quickly and quietly, or if they want to hand everything they own to the copyright holders. Once the commercial Usenet providers shut down, that's pretty much it for public access to the large binary newsgroups.

    The interesting scenario would be if the copyright holders decide to push the Usenet providers into bankruptcy so they can get the customer credit card records, and then threaten suit on that -- or maybe use it as probable cause to motivate a law enforcement raid & seizure.

     

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  24.  
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    AJ, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    not sure you re following me at all. File sharing is not about free, it may have been when it was first created, but it's evolved.

    It's about ownership. Very few other products that you buy come with so many strings attached that you don't feel you actually own what you bought. Example: Here is your Song download, you can play it as long as you don't let anyone else hear it (performance), you only play it in your region, only on this specific device, and only for as long as we feel it's profitable to keep the DRM servers running. With those types of stipulations, it's a wonder everyone doesn't pirate.

    It's been proven that the people that share files, buy the most products. Sure, I would agree that there is a percentage of people that leach just because they can, but would those people spend money to buy it if they couldn't leach? I doubt it. So you don't consider that in your decisions, you can't stop it, why waste the resources on a non-customer.

    "half the people trading files today would stop if they thought they might get caught"

    This is a very interesting approach, and hasn't worked for the AA's so far because people really don't care when they feel they've been cheated.

    "Why don't they care" is the more interesting question.
    The answer is simple, and you'll figure it out the first time your DRM filled music collection is rendered useless because they shut down the auth. servers and you are forced to buy the whole collection all over again.

    If you want to shift the industry, you fix the problem. The problem is not file sharing, sharing files is a work around to defeat the deficiencies in the business models of the AA's.
    Here is a simple formula for the AA's to pull out a total win.

    You rebuild your business around giving the customer what they want, how they want it, and let them do with it as they please. Then, you build your revenue stream around that. If you need some examples, check out the guy from Nine Inch Nails. He's got it figured out.
    If they could do that, there would be no need for TPB or the rest of it, those sites are only there because the AA's are not filling the customers needs.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    The number of commercial Usenet providers is well within the copyright industry's lawsuit capabilities.

    The award in the usenet.com case will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    With that as precedent, the other commercial Usenet providers will be asked if they want to fold quickly and quietly, or if they want to hand everything they own to the copyright holders. Once the commercial Usenet providers shut down, that's pretty much it for public access to the large binary newsgroups.

    The interesting scenario would be if the copyright holders decide to push the Usenet providers into bankruptcy so they can get the customer credit card records, and then threaten suit on that -- or maybe use it as probable cause to motivate a law enforcement raid & seizure.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    "File sharing" may be growing, but the number of teens that are changing from illegal file sharing to legal file sharing has grown according to the most recent statistics (about 7% year on year, I believe, to around 34%). Teens are the biggest file sharers of all, and if the numbers of teens changing to legal file sharing is growing, then whack-a-mole is having an effect.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    Yes, I think you have it exactly. File sharing may be increasing, but illegal file sharing is dropping. The more barriers you put up, the fewer people will do it. True, you will never get the number to zero, but do you need to get the number to zero to shift the industry? I believe the answer is no. It is possible that a 10% or 20% shift is all it takes and it is a new game.

     

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  28.  
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    RD, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    Nail, meet head...

    "A CD should cost a lot less than a record. Adjusted for inflation, I say around $4.99 would be more than a fair, market-driven price."

    Even better, they PROMISED the prices would come down, then reneged when CD's became a cash-cow. I have an article from 1984, when CD's were a new thing, with some industry shilltard desperately trying to get people to buy into this new thing. He states that, because its a new tech, it will be a bit more expensive to START with (about $12.99-15.99 when LP's of the day were 8.99-11.99, roughly) and said that prices would come down "to between 6 and 10 dollars" as CD's sold more and economies of scale came in to play, and that they would be cheaper and easier to make than LP, so would eventually be lower in price. Well, THAT was a lie. Cd's only took a couple of years to become a HUGE hit and the lying, thieving scumbag music industry did an immediate about-face on that promise of "lower prices."

    They are reaping what they have sown, they made this bed, they can lie in it now.

     

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  29.  
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    AJ, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    I see we will have to agree to disagree. But check out these stats.

    http://www.ipoque.com/resources/internet-studies/internet-study-2008_2009

    Here's a nice piece on private sites. I expecially like this quote.

    File-sharing clubs

    While The Pirate Bay and other public sites get the most news coverage, the momentum now is toward the private torrent communities: Websites that are accessible by invitation only, have strict rules about sharing and etiquette and usually focus on a single type of pirated content, such as music or films.

    PassThePopcorn.org, as the name implies, tracks only files for downloading films but offers everything from the lowest resolutions all the way up to the high-definition quality available on Blu-ray discs. To join, you have to be invited by a current member.

    The What.cd community, operating on a similar model, shares more than 270,000 musical albums representing 140,000 bands, according to internal statistics posted on its website.

    Mike Masnick, CEO of research firm Techdirt, say that while private BitTorrent trackers are proliferating, it is difficult to directly assess this growth. Shrouded in secrecy, private trackers are illegal and try not to attract attention.

    In a widely publicized incident in 2007, private community Oink.cd — whose members famously included Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor — was raided by international police organization Interpol, and a few of its members were charged with copyright infringement.

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-06-23-online-files-napster_N.htm

    Just because you think it's dropping doesn't make it so. You just can't find them because they are fragmented, and who's going to admit to something that could land them in court?

    Side note, I find the humor in the fact I'm quoting someone that is referencing the Author of this particular post. heh

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    Just remember, you just quoted someone's opinion, which in part quoted someone's opinion. Remarkably, opinion + opinion still don't make a fact. :)

     

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  31.  
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    Rabbit80, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 1:47am

    What are the statutory damages - there were only 9 charges against Usenet.com.... If the statuatory damages are the same as in the Jammie thomas case then the maximum fine they will get is only $1.35 Million...

     

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  32.  
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    AJ, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 4:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    Then show us the facts hero, or just continue to Troll and not actually add any real information to the discussion.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why bother...

    Or...could it be that legal file sharing has finally become available, with rapidly decreasing restrictions?

    Yes, let's ignore the fact that 5 years ago there was no such thing as legal filesharing, and that in the years proceeding the legal channels were so notoriously horrible that customers were driven away in hordes. It must be the whack-a-mole that's driven the sales, right?

     

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  34.  
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    odd, Jul 3rd, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps you should inform the swedish court that convicted them...

     

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  35.  
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    bob, Jul 5th, 2009 @ 8:37pm

    Re: Re: Why bother...

    Combine this with that asshole Attorney General in New York and his overblown "war on child porn" and you have the death of Usenet. Look at how many large ISPs have completely cut off Usenet access.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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