High Court finds NewzBin liable for copyright infringements committed by users of its index and search service.
In Twentieth Century Fox and others v NewzBin Limited, the High Court found NewzBin, which indexes and enables searches of content (including films) posted on an online bulletin board, liable for the copyright infringements committed by those users which used the service to help them download copyright-protected films and other media. NewzBin was found to have infringed copyright by authorising copying of those films, procuring and engaging with its users in a common design to copy those films, and communicating those films to the public.
This is a resounding victory for the film industry and is likely to support the aims of many content and brand owners to better engage service providers in preventing copyright infringement by their users.
The NewzBin case illustrates that, in appropriate circumstances, it will not be enough for online service providers simply to claim that they have passive, 'content agnostic' roles and so should not have any responsibility for what their users do. That said, NewzBin was not a typical search engine. The judgment describes it as a service designed and targeted at helping its users, in return for payment, to access material that in the vast majority of cases was unlawful. The judgement also portrays NewzBin as knowing exactly what it was helping its users to do and demonstrating no desire to prevent (for example by filtering out unlawful content). Consequently, how the defendant operated is important in this case to distinguish it from many other online service providers to which this judgment will be of interest.
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