The High Court has found numerous Newzbin defendants liable for copyright infringement and conspiracy to injure by unlawful means.
The case is the most recent effort by rightsholders to take effective action in relation to the “Newzbin” websites, a prolific source of infringing content. The action has a long history, as reported by us on various occasions .
The defendants were an individual, Mr Harris, and various of his corporate “creatures”. The ruling follows previous action against Newzbin operators (which was technically successful, but the court orders obtained in respect of costs and damages never satisfied) and the 2011 court order requiring BT Telecom (and, subsequently, other ISPs) to block access to the site. For those unfamiliar with the tort of conspiracy to injure, it is (in short) a civil offence consisting of agreement between two or more people to deprive a person of something to which he is entitled, or to injure that person’s proprietary rights. The claimants successfully argued both heads: conspiracy to defraud the claimants by removing and/or concealing assets of companies (to avoid court orders obtained) and conspiracy to infringe the claimants’ copyright works.
The key evidence in this latest claim was private online (chat) messages disclosed by a former business associate of Mr Harris without which it is unclear what success the claimants would have had. On that basis, it is unlikely that other rightsholders will take great comfort from the outcome.
Separately, the long-running battle against the illegal file-sharing site The Pirate Bay continues. Argentina has become the first Latin American country to block the site: eleven ISPs in Argentina have been ordered to block the site following successful action brought by the Argentinian music trade body Cámara Argentina de Productores de Fonogramas (CAPIF), which represents both major and independent labels.
Rightsholders will no doubt continue to watch these cases with interest, in tandem with continuing to attempt to educate users and to promote legitimate online content access such as ad-supported streaming.