Twentieth Century Fox v Newzbin Ltd



Citation: [2010] EWHC 608 (Ch)

Court: Chancery Division

Bench: Justice Kitchin

Facts: Newzbin Ltd owned an internet discussion forum that linked to pages on Usenet. They adopted a membership model where premium members would get access to links to movies on demand. This was facilitated by the NZB feature of the website that sought different parts of a copyrighted work on different platforms and assembled them for downloading and viewing. Newzbin often encouraged its editors to create files of assembled media fragments for receiving monetary benefits. While Newzbin displayed the poster of movies and indexed them for an easy surfing experience, they would ultimately just hyperlink the location where actual infringing material existed. A substantive portion of Newzbin’s defense revolved around the fact that they did not upload the content themselves and that they deserve the protection provided to an intermediary. Twentieth Century Fox (TCF), a major production house, took Newzbin to Court over copyright infringement claims.

Issues Involved:

  • Whether Newzbin infringed the copyrights of TCF by authorizing acts of infringement by its members?

  • Whether Newzbin infringed the copyrights of TCF by procuring, encouraging, and entering into a common design with its members to infringe?


Laws Applicable: Sections 16, 20 of the UK Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act, 1988


Analysis: Newzbin claimed that they were merely an intermediary and had no role to play in copyright infringement activities. The Court, in an attempt to identify if Newzbin was responsible for authorizing infringement considered precedents such as the CBS Songs Ltd v Amstrad Consumer Electronics Plc, [1988] A.C. 1013 and foreign laws like the Australian Copyright Law. The Single Judge identified three factors to consider:

  • Nature of the relationship between the defendant and its members

  • The extent of the defendant‘s power to prevent the infringement

  • Whether the defendant took any other reasonable steps to prevent or avoid the infringement

Applying these factors to the case, the Court held that Newzbin had intentionally involved itself in infringing activity through its subscription models, NZB feature, and employee compensation schemes. Therefore, holding Newzbin liable for authorizing acts of infringement and for procuring, encouraging, and entering into a common design.

Conclusion:

This was a landmark case in the UK that provided guidelines on judging authorization and facilitation of copyright infringement. It echoes Section 101 of the Australian Copyright Act, marking an instance of global uniformity in applying intellectual property justifications and principles.


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