The past few weeks has seen the somewhat unlikely resurrection of Newzbin. The world’s premier Usenet indexing site was crushed by huge debts but through a tangled web worthy of the most dramatic soap opera, it has somehow been reanimated. While ex-owner Caesium eyes future opportunities away from file-sharing, lawyers already have plans to bring Newzbin2 to its knees.
During recent years the file-sharing community has grown used to the dramas surrounding The Pirate Bay. It got raided, it came back. Its hosts have been threatened, it came back. Its bandwidth suppliers have faced legal action, but it still it came back. While these developments have demonstrated the resilience of the site and those behind it, the back stories have always proven pretty straight forward.
The same can not be said about the fall and subsequent resurrection of Newzbin, the site which turned over £1 million from its 700,000 members in 2009. For those struggling to keep up (and yes, that includes us too) here’s a brief recap with some existing facts, some more recent ones, some you probably didn’t know and others you definitely didn’t.
After a battle with Hollywood earlier this year, Newzbin collapsed early May under a mountain of debt. Previously run by admin Caesium, who actually left a few months before the court case, the site ceased to exist. Sort of.
Later in May news broke that Newzbin had previously been infiltrated by Team R Dogs, an entity which appeared to be run by a Mr White. Apparently without the knowledge of Newzbin, some time ago the ‘Dogs had the foresight to swipe the site’s code with the aim of bringing Newzbin back to life should it somehow suffer a fate worse than death at the hands of the MPA.
Team R Dogs fulfilled this promise a few days ago when Newzbin2 was born. Ex-users of Newzbin didn’t have any problem finding the site though, since it came back under the old domain name. The apparent mechanism for this feat is as amazing as the rest of the story.
Some time ago, under the pressure of mounting debts – the £360,000 profit the site made in 2009, gone – Newzbin needed to raise some funds. They say they did this by selling the domain names Newzbin.com and Newzxxx.com to a Seychelles-based company but then, as they obviously still needed them, leased them back. After Newzbin1 closed, Team R Dogs say they bid against several other NZB sites to acquire the Newzbin domain but eventually came out victorious.
From previous reports, rumors, speculation, crystal ball viewing and a statement from an unnamed ex-director of Newzbin, the conclusion was that when Team R Dogs brought back the site it would be with an old version of the site with old databases. In fact the site returned with the databases bang up to date from the day Newzbin went down, user payments and credits intact.
This feat was partially explained by Mr White in a recent interview. His implication was that although they gained access to the site’s databases some time ago, the staff at Newzbin never noticed, which allowed them to take copies of all necessary data right up until the site died.
So what does Chris Elsworth, ex-owner/director of Newzbin think about this drama and how does he feel about Team R Dogs bringing the site back to generate profit for them just as Newzbin1 faces liquidation?
“Well I’m not going to lie. If they go on to make millions out of it I’ll be a bit miffed that I’m not the one earning it – lets not beat about the bush, we’re all interested in making enough money to be comfortable in our retirement,” he told us.
“But at the same time, I think I had done about as much as I could for Newzbin, my interest in it was waning even before the MPA poked their noses in if I’m honest, it’s unlikely there would have been many more shattering breakthroughs with me running it. So maybe if they can keep it up then good things will come out of it,” he added.
As for the future, Chris told us that he’s taking a breather first then he’ll be off to pursue some opportunities being offered to him at the BBC.
But there was one other little mystery we wanted to ask Chris about. While it’s well known that Newzbin was found guilty of copyright infringement, what about Team R Dogs – if they stole the Newzbin code and databases are they guilty of theft and/or copyright infringement?
“I had some contact with the new owner [of Newzbin1] for a while during the handover [referring to when Chris left Newzbin months ago] and from what I gather, the rights to the code/IP were sold to another company before the [MPA court case] verdict was out,” he explained, adding, “This may or may not be the same company [WCIS Limited] the domain was sold to.”
So while the quiet life beckons for Chris, the same cannot be said for Team R Dogs. They have taken on a site that Hollywood was determined to crush and spent a huge sum of money in doing so. The complete return of the site hasn’t gone unnoticed.
From a source that was proven reliable in the past, we has learned that work against Newzbin2 is already underway. The site will not be allowed to reappear “just like that” and legal action is already being prepared and measures taken to take down the site.
Newzbin2 currently appears to be hosted in Sweden, although Team R Dogs have suggested that the move there might not be permanent. However, with the original Newzbin verdict in hand, the studios have a powerful tool. Already this week a Dutch court relied heavily on the UK Newzbin verdict when it handed a defeat to Usenet community FTD.