RIAA now targeting Usenet: The party's over?

The RIAA has now set its sights on Usenet, that decentralized network of discussion groups, some of which happen to host copyrighted material. The cartel filed suit against www.usenet.com, a Usenet access provider, for offering—get this—”essentially the same functionality” as the Groksters of the world. (When was the last time anyone used Grokster? Why don’t we mention BearShare while we’re at it…) Usenet, if you’re not familiar, can be thought of as a giant decentralized message board of sorts, only you can attach files to your posts. That’s the Reader’s Digest version, at least. Since Usenet is sorta hard to figure out and not everyone has access to it (some ISPs give you access as part of your regular Internet subscription), it hasn’t been on the RIAA’s radar. But believe me when I tell you, having used it to “get things” for six years now, it’s the best resource for things out there for the average guy. Not everyone has access to topsites and the like.

Does the case have merit? Hard to say. I mean, does the RIAA expect the courts to shut Usenet down? That’s like shutting down the World Wide Web or Internet Relay Chat. Or, more likely, will the RIAA go after provider after provider until all the big guys (Giganews, Easynews, etc.) are forced out of business? That would stink.

I know I mention Usenet pretty much every other day on at least one post, but does anyone else here play in its shadows? How upset would you be if the RIAA knocked your favorite provider offline? I know www.usenet.com does itself no favors with its silly “download movies and music for freeeee” advertising, but it’s not like that’s all Usenet is for. Where else would you be able to debate who’s greater, Hulk Hogan or God (Hulk) and exactly how evil (or saintly!) George W. Bush is?

I hope the RIAA is just wasting its money in fighting this. Because if they win, hey, let’s go after http next. Hell, why not Gopher? I’m sure that’s used for piracy…

RIAA shifts legal battle to a new front, sues Usenet access provider [Ars Technica]