The Case Against Newzbin
The MPA clearly doesn't want to explain why it didn't deal with Newzbin directly, but Killock thinks that it's really down to time and resources. We ask him if the MPA should have dealt with Newzbin directly, rather than calling for censorship.
'I think that certainly is the ideal situation,'
he says. 'I'm not sure how easy that would have been for them, but to be honest I think Newzbin's a bit of an irrelevance – do we really think that it's got so many hundreds of users; do we really think it's such a problem that we absolutely have to engage in website censorship?
'There are other ways of dealing with these problems, including approaching hosts and so on, and no doubt they will claim to have tried some of those, but ultimately they could probably find out who the owners are with a bit of investigation, and they could probably try to deal with that with them direct as individuals who may well be culpable. I think the problem here is that people don't really want to do the legwork; they don't really wish to have to go to the trouble. What they want is an easy way of enforcing copyright that doesn't rely on due process and an actual investigation.'
Shutting down Napster didn't stop music piracy. Will blocking access to Newzbin be any different?
This brings up an interesting question – will the blocking of Newzbin actually help to prevent online copyright infringement? After all, it's not as if the shutting down of Napster stopped people sharing music online. Also, just how much money does the MPA think it's losing as a result of Newzbin, especially when you consider that one pirated film doesn't necessarily equate to one lost sale?
'The film industry as well as other content creators suffer great losses due to piracy,'
the MPA said to us. 'The number of titles on offer on Newzbin is vast, so even if there isn't a 1-1 relation, the losses are staggering.'
The MPA also points out that 'Newzbin has a turnover exceeding 1 million GBP per year. Since Newzbin applied for bankruptcy, damage proceedings have not been brought, but note as an example that the Swedish court in the PirateBay case awarded several millions in damages to rights holders. It’s not a victimless crime.'
Unlike free torrent search facilities such as the PirateBay, which make money via advertising, Newzbin actually charges people to use its service, which complicates the issue further. In addition, the site's owners seeming disregard for copyright makes it difficult to defend.
The MPA points out that the Swedish Court awarded several millions in damages to rights holders following the PirateBay case. The final amount was mocked by the owners of PirateBay in a video following the result
'What Newzbin didn't do, I think, which they should have done, is policing their users a little bit,'
says Killock, 'and particularly reacting to complaints when users had posted specific links and advice about how to download such-and-such a film in binary files, or whatever.'
We're not looking at a altruistic service that sticks its middle finger up at the man and offers everything to everybody for free – Newzbin is quite clearly profiting directly from online copyright infringement of content that it had no hand in creating.
On the other hand, this shows quite clearly that people are willing to pay money for easily-accessible online content, and we currently have no decent way of doing that with films in the UK. The film industry is still curiously tied to physical media, with complex licensing issues meaning that services such as LoveFilm can't offer the expansive movie back catalogues that people demand. What's more, the legitimate online movie services we do have are nearly always crippled by poor-quality online streaming, or stuttering, low-res files. Blocking access to Newzbin isn't going to change this.