Dutch USENET provider News Service recently won an appeal of a 2009 decision that cost them their business. The decision, which came out of a case filed by BREIN—the European copyright cartel—held that USENET providers had to proactively police their services for copyrighted content. Realistically, there is no way to do that, given that there is so much content uploaded to newsgroups on a daily basis. In 2011, News Service had to shut down its servers for good.
That didn’t end the court battle, however.
On August 19, a Dutch court of appeals reversed the decision and said that USENET providers are not required to filter the messages that become available through their services. They will still have to take down copyrighted material that is flagged by copyright organizations, of course, but they won’t have to go through their own listings to find that content themselves and remove it to avoid being accused of copyright infringement.
This is not the only decision that the courts have to render in the case, but it does constitute a major victory for USENET providers. USENET providers will no longer have to worry about filtering through the massive amounts of data that are uploaded to their servers on a daily basis, nor will they be responsible for what users upload to the USENET system.
This ruling does not, of course, affect USENET providers in the US. US providers work with the DMCA takedown notice system, which provides copyright holders with a way to take care of their own copyright issues, report them and have anything that infringes on their intellectual property rights removed promptly from the servers.
If you’re interested in USENET, you do have the option of going through European or US providers—see our lists here. Each of them will have their own privacy policies. The best services offer SSL encryption. This protects your privacy not only from copyright trolls, but also from ISPs, which sometimes slow down traffic over the USENET system.
News Service was previously found to have been guilty of copyright infringement and this issue has not been fully resolved as of yet. However, Dutch USENET providers will no longer be required to engage in impossible policing of the content that goes upon the newsgroups.