updated 10/17/2007 7:06:38 PM ET 2007-10-17T23:06:38

The recording industry is going after an old-fashioned online bulletin board system called Usenet, filing a lawsuit against one provider on grounds it allows users to illegally distribute copyright-protected music.

Music companies, represented by the trade group Recording Industry Association of America, said Internet users have been turning to Usenet and other alternatives after the entertainment industry's legal actions forced several online file-sharing services to close or transform into legal music distributors.

Usenet has its roots in the late 1970s and, unlike the scores of Web-based bulletin boards that followed, it runs over a dispersed collection of computer servers worldwide with no one company or individual in control.

Federal copyright law offers online providers some immunity from copyright lawsuits over their users' activities.

But the recording industry might still prevail if it can prove the service provider encourages illegal activity through its advertising or promotional materials, said Wendy Seltzer, a fellow with Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She described the distinction as "a fine line."

Usenet's use has been in relative decline, but it remains popular for trading images, songs and other multimedia files.

The lack of a central administrator didn't stop the music labels from targeting Usenet. They went after one specific provider, Inc. of Fargo, N.D.

In their lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in New York, the labels accused the Usenet company of touting its service as a haven for sharing music in such formats as MP3.

The lawsuit cites the company's Web site, which reads in part, "Today's hottest way of sharing MP3 files over the Internet is Usenet."

The lawsuit notes that the Usenet company offers anonymity services that can help users avoid getting caught.

The Usenet company did not respond to e-mail requests for comment and had no telephone listing with directory assistance or with its domain name registration records.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments