A federal judge yesterday found Usenet.com liable for just about every copyright infringement claim on the books: direct infringement, inducement of infringement, contributory infringement, and (just for good measure) vicarious infringement. Not content to be loud and proud about its pro-pirate agenda, Usenet.com also resorted to stonewalling legal questionnaires, sending employees to Europe to avoid depositions, wiping hard drives, and failing to turn over e-mail after being sued in 2007 by the music labels.
The recording industry’s high-octane litigation campaign has on many occasions suffered from “poor targeting,” but it’s hard to see any complexities in this case. When Usenet.com employees privately suggested that the service’s tag line should be “piracy, porno, and pictures —Usenet,” “Usenet is full of music and movies so get your pirate on!,” or “Bless the Usenet and all that it steals!,” it’s clear they knew why people were paying $4.95 to $18.95 a month for the privilege of accessing the newsgroups. And not only did they know, they allegedly took steps to encourage the infringement.