The UK courts have told Big Content that it can’t hope to profit from piracy after it tried to seize cash made by Usenet.
The England and Wales High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, has ruled that the movie industry has no rights to the profits made by the owner of Usenet-indexing website Newzbin2 by infringing on copyrights.
According to IT World, the studios already obtained injunctions freezing Harris’ bank accounts and those of the NZB Foundation which seems to own the property in which Harris lives and those of his company Kthxbai, which is said to have received payments from Newzbin2, and another company Motors for Movies, which owns the McLaren car Harris uses.
But the studios wanted an even bigger pound of flesh. They wanted a proprietary injunction which would claim title to Harris’ assets and those of his companies. They argued that as copyright owners they had a proprietary claim to the proceeds of infringement of those copyrights.
But Judge Guy Newey said that a copyright owner does not have a proprietary claim to the fruits of an infringement of copyright and he refused to give such an injunction.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), represented by Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Disney and Columbia Pictures, sued David Harris, the operator of the Newzbin2 website, and Christopher Elsworth, who used to run the site’s predecessor Newzbin.com.
The studios had hoped to make a bob or two on the money Harris derived from copyright infringement. After all it was money they did not make because at the time they were reluctant to sell legal content online.
Newzbin2 was a British website that indexed binary files posted on Usenet. The site also created files in the NZB format listing all the Usenet messages containing the constituent parts of a posted binary file, allowing users to download the posted files more easily.
So the High Court of Justice ruled in 2010 that Newzbin was liable to the studios for copyright infringement because its operators well knew that the vast majority of the materials in the Movies category of the website were commercial and so likely to be protected by copyright.