Newzbin Trial : 20th Century Fox (MPA) vs. Newzbin

May 18th, 2010 update: Newzbin discontinued operations today.  According to their homepage:

Regrettably the Newzbin website has to close as a result of the legal action against us.


We will be posting daily trial updates from Newzbin.  The summaries are pulled word for word from  Members can follow any link below to the original post.  You may also want to visit TorrentFreak or UsenetShack for more information including trial background and commentary.  DSL Reports also has an active trial thread.

20th Century Fox and Others vs Newzbin Ltd – Day 1 – Feb. 2nd

First day kicked off at 10:30am with the opposing barrister delivering his opening speech, which lasted about 3 hours. Apart from mostly being full of how evil we are, he explained, mostly for the Judge, Justice Kitchin, what Usenet is, what Newzbin is, what NZB files are, how they compare to hyperlinks [at great pains to try and convince him they are technically different], some accusations about our header fetching backend code [it’s apparently designed to go looking for copyrighted stuff on Usenet specifically].

Our opening argument was blissfully short by comparison and stated only that we dispute nearly everything they say and we’ll cover it in the evidence to come.

The second part of the day consisted of witnesses for the claimants, which for the most part were pretty insignificant – a couple of FACT agents who didn’t have much to say under cross-examination apart from they did a half-assed job analysing our site.. Some junior lawyers who confirmed they had harvested data from our listings but didn’t bother to check how much of it was actually under any form of copyright.

Their star of the show, an expert witness was cross-examined for the last hour, covering topics including the dangers of auto-opening NZB files [he admitted a malicious NZB file might be a virus and auto-opening it in a browser could lead to a user being infected by a virus], discussing the various reasons that binary headers and text-digest headers are treated separately in the backend [performance reasons, and they’re handled differently until repors are created at the final step, at which point the two types of reports converge into one common database again].

Thankfully the Judge Justice Kitchin is remarkably on the ball and switched on – if nothing else this will be a very fair trial and already the opposing barrister has been pulled up on several points of contention – this Judge certainly won’t blindly eat everything he’s told by the MPA. on the other hand it doesn’t mean he’ll accept our arguments easily either.

Court adjourned at 4:30pm. The trial continues..

20th Century Fox and Others vs Newzbin Ltd – Day 2 – Feb. 3rd

Today’s update is very brief – cross examination of the MPA’s witnesses has now finished. Questioning of Newzbin witnesses has started; Freaky first followed by Caesium. We can’t say any more at this time due to witness rules. More information hopefully tomorrow.

20th Century Fox and Others vs Newzbin Ltd – Day 3 – Feb. 6th

There have been bizarre side issues which have emerged. To be fair to the MPA (god, we never thought we’d ever say that!) it was out of their control and down to internal Newzbin issues. Combined with Caesium falling ill during cross-examination by the opposing barrister, this has caused a delay and things are a bit of a shambles at the moment.

Quite what happens next week when the trial restarts is unclear and there may be more delays. Times are getting interesting: in a Chinese sense.

20th Century Fox and Others vs Newzbin Ltd – Day 4 – Feb. 9th

A refreshed Caesium finished cross examination today.

There have been/are huge procedural complications caused by Newzbin’s internal issues and this may cause delays in the case being concluded this week.

It would be fair to say that the picture painted in court of Newzbin has not been an entirely positive one. Whilst it is hard to double guess Mr Justice Kitchin, Newzbin may have some difficulties in the near future. Caesium was accused of lying massively and repeatedly under oath and ‘concocting’ a phoney defence: ‘Bollocks’ we said, a technical latin legal expression, but nonetheless a problematic accusation.

We may be being paranoid, but at the moment our hunch is that things are looking less positive for us than last week. We hope we are wrong.

Newzbin Legal

[Update1: for clarification ‘internal issues’ does not refer to dissent within the company between people: everyone gets on just fine]

[Update 2: MPAA are now even attempting to use these news updates against us in court!]

20th Century Fox and Others vs Newzbin Ltd – Day 5 – Feb. 10

[Brief update for obvious reasons. We feel it is important to keep users up to date with events in court even if the MPA do try to use the news & user comments against us.]

The MPA resisted Newzbin’s application for an adjournment so we could hire extra lawyers. They failed: the case has been adjourned for a couple of weeks while we instruct fresh counsel. We expect closing submissions in very early March.

20th Century Fox and Others vs Newzbin Ltd – Trial Finished

The trial restarted on the Tuesday the 2nd March and finished yesterday the third. It’s always difficult trying to guess what a judge is thinking as his questions and comments, where probing of either parties submissions, may be no more than professionally required scepticism. Nonetheless, here is our guess.

Our hunch is that they will fail on some of their assertions but will probably win on others. They may not be able to prove damage or loss from copying, but they may convince the court we have facilitated others in obtaining their works.

If they win then, as we said in a previous news story, Newzbin will not be shut down. In all probability there will be ‘enquiry as to damages’ (the legal expression) and a new mini-trial over the terms of an injunction compelling us to block material of the Claimants. For example we may be required to develop filter mechanisms. At the moment we remain unfiltered and we would fight for the current notice and take down system that we already use. Again this is just our best guess and we may be well wide of the mark.

The second point is user privacy. One thing the Claimants did complain about was that Newzbin “deliberately arranged it’s systems so that no user details were available: even if we got an Anton Pillar there would be nothing to seize as no logs were kept”. They were correct on that. No user needs worry about their privacy being violated by logs. Equally, since the site has lawful non-infringing use (our hunch is that the judge accepted our arguments on this: he seemed receptive to our submission that GPL, Creative Commons & non-copyright works were on the Indexes) a mere membership of Newzbin proves nothing against any user: the Claimants didn’t contend this anyway.

We do’t know when judgement will be handed down but our guess is very shortly before or after Easter. We will let you know.

March 29th, 2010 – link to verdict