Piracy site Newzbin2 gives up and closes 15 months after block

Screengrab of Newzbin 2, BBC Newzbin originally claimed it was unaffected by the block as it offered workarounds

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Newzbin2, once one of the web's most popular sites offering links to pirated content, has decided to close.

It comes 15 months after a UK court ordered internet service providers to block the site, and amid global pressure from copyright holders.

Internet rights groups said the move was "pointless" in stopping piracy.

In a statement, Newzbin2's owners said it had struggled to cover costs because payment providers had "understandably lost their nerve".

"Newzbin2 was always hoped to be a viable underground commercial venture," the site said.

"The figures just don't stack up."

The Creative Coalition Campaign, which represents groups such as the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and record industry body the BPI, welcomed the announcement.

"This is great news," chairwoman Christine Payne said.

"Pirate websites should not be allowed to trade as this undermines the ability of legitimate businesses to recoup their considerable investment and threatens jobs in the creative sector."

Heavily sued

Newzbin2 was the follow-up site to the original Newzbin1, which was sued by the MPA, leaving it with massive debts.

The site was taken over by a group of hackers known as Team R Dogs who resurrected the site as Newzbin2.

In July 2011, a court ruling meant the site had to be blocked to users in the UK.

Start Quote

All our payment providers dropped out or started running scared”

End Quote Newzbin2 statement

It attempted various techniques to circumvent the ban, but users began to head elsewhere.

"Newzbin1 was said to have had 700,000 registered users," the site's statement said.

"In fact that was the total number of people who ever signed up in the history of Newzbin from 2000 onwards.

"Only a fraction were active, loads of people dropped out and went to other sites."

'Running scared'

The administrators defended their record on tackling piracy, saying they had been willing to comply with requests to remove pirated content - but that copyright holders had never sent them a "single complaint".

"The tragedy is this: unlike Newzbin1 we are 100% DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] compliant," the statement said.

Block parties

The Pirate Bay screenshot

Efforts to stem online piracy have in recent times focused on cutting off the public's access to websites offering links to download content.

Groups like the BPI - which represents the UK music industry - have used the courts to make internet service providers (ISPs), who typically resist such moves, block websites.

Aside from Newzbin2, this year has seen The Pirate Bay blocked by all of the UK's major ISPs, a controversial move among campaigners who believe that such censorship is ineffective.

Following the block, The Pirate Bay's traffic plummeted. However, other data has suggested the overall level of piracy has not dropped.

Beyond blocking sites, copyright holders have also called for measures to make the likes of Google give preferential treatment to search results containing legal downloads.

"We have acted on every DMCA notice we received without stalling or playing games: if there was a DMCA complaint the report was gone. Period."

As well as providing a free service listing download links, the site also offered a premium subscription option with various perks.

However, the site said not enough members had been paying, and that for those that had, the services the site had used to receive the money had been backing out.

"All our payment providers dropped out or started running scared," the site said.

It added that accepting Bitcoin - an electronic, hard-to-track currency - had not been an option because it was "just too hard for 90% of people".

The Open Rights Group, which campaigns for an open internet, said Newzbin's closure should not be taken as a sign that blocking sites was effective.

"Newzbin were rightly pursued through the courts and found to be encouraging infringement," said Jim Killock, the group's executive director.

"That is the right approach. However, censorship and block orders are disturbing and we think unnecessary given the success in tackling the businesses and payment mechanisms involved.

"Web blocking is a blunt instrument and is a dangerous practice. We wish copyright owners the best in enforcing their rights and building their businesses, but urge them not to resort to further requests for censorship."

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