As you likely know already if you're a user of Newzbin or indeed a valued reader our last post was dedicated to the MPAA suing the net's primary binary usenet indexer, Newzbin. As was stated in that interview with Newzbin's legal team, it's not actually the MPAA suing but rather a group of large Hollywood media companies led by 20th Century Fox (yes, good old Rupert Murdoch).
The court case actually started this morning at the High Court in Temple, London and is likely to take at least a week but it is currently unknown whether a verdict will be delivered at the end of the trial, some details of which are below:
COURT 58, Before MR JUSTICE KITCHIN
Monday, 1 February 2010 At half past 10
TLC 199/09 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation & ors v Newzbin Ltd
The opening day saw Newzbin release the following statement at close of play on their (now private and internal) news page:
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 [sic] 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..
As you can see the case already seems to be showcasing the massive divide between modern technology and our current justice system here in the UK, but that's a rant for another day. Why this is important is due to fact the prosecution are clearly incompetent at understanding how the very technology works. For a start, NZB files are merely raw XML, a markup language that is simply read by a client much like a browser would read a source of XHTML. As the implementation of technology (when following specification) requires no execution of code/script located within the file the fact they claim it can harbour virus's is quite frankly absurd and they're asking to get shot down on that front.
It is also interesting that they've dragged FACT, the Federation against Copyright Theft, agents in to provide what looks like more useless evidence. FACT work (far too) closely with the police in the UK to bring "copyright theft" offenders to justice and have helped the police with many well-known house raids including the one on Cheltenham based David Rock, owner of the former tv-links.co.uk. Copyright infringement does not class as theft under UK law due to the fact that data does not count as tangible property, so where they got their name from we'll never know; it is simply our opinion that any organisation backed by that amount of private investment should not be allowed to work closely with a public organisation such as the Police.
Hopefully the Newzbin team will carry on with the updates throughout the week, we shall update you accordingly; again, we wish them the best of luck.
Tuesday 2nd February 2010 (Day Two)
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.