FTD, The Netherlands’ largest Usenet community, has recently lost a court case against Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN resulting in a landmark decision. FTD, who were hoping that their operations would be deemed legal, were found to be in breach of copyright laws and not because they actually hosted or linked to any illegal content. They contributed to the illegal activity simply by providing a promotional venue for uploaders of infringing material.
FTD’s system works a little differently than some other Usenet portals by allowing users to “spot” the location of the material they find, which could theoretically include the locations of copyrighted materials. Although the numbers were small with just 13 cases out of 500,000 infringing, the court said that was enough and thus deemed the whole system to be illegal.
The case is a perfect example of how internet law is constantly evolving and in directions not previously predicted. Although the court confirmed that FTD itself wasn’t breaking any laws, it has assigned responsibility for illegal content to the portal itself which could determine the future of all file-sharing portals. It also mirrors what’s happening with other social media companies and the fact that many are now responsible for their user generated content.