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The Federal Constitutional Court in Germany has ruled that the identities of file sharers must remain private and can no longer be revealed to media companies that are suing them over alleged copyright infringement. For now one, only people accused of “hard” crimes such as murder and kidnapping will have their identities revealed.
Germany is known to have some of the toughest copyright laws on the planet and some reports have indicated that over 200,000 German citizens have had their identities shared with entertainment and media companies, simply so they can be threatened with future legal action for unauthorized downloads.
Christian Solmecke, a defense lawyer, gave a more in depth look into the system before this latest ruling. “Based on the data provided by Logistep and other P2P tracking enterprises, an offense is reported. The public prosecution service is obliged to investigate because a copyright infringement is a criminal offense in Germany.” The ISP would then be forced to reveal the identity of the alleged file sharer.
The new ruling means the media companies can no longer force ISPs to reveal alleged file sharer’s identities. As was noted before, the only way to get an identity for now on will be if the file sharer is also involved in terrorism, murder, child pornography or kidnapping. I’m sure many file sharers in Germany feel a lot more safe now that this ruling has passed.


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Verizon has announced that they will be stopping access to tens of thousands of Usenet discussion areas including the very popular alt.* groups that have been around since the late 1980s.
Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said only a select few newsgroups/discussion groups would be offered to customers going into the future. It appears the decision is in response to political “strong-arming” from New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who wants strong restrictions on all newsgroups.
Cuomo added that his office had found child porn on at least 88 newsgroups, although that percentage is tiny compared to the over 90,000 newsgroups that exist. “We are attacking this problem by working with Internet service providers…I commend the companies that have stepped up today to embrace a new standard of responsibility, which should serve as a model for the entire industry,” read a press statement from Cuomo’s office.
Newsgroups are a pre-Web technology that has relied on ISPs and Universities to operate servers in which users can exchange messages and files.
With the decision however, comes the shut down of many useful newsgroups such as symantec.customerservice.general, us.military, microsoft.public.excel, and fr.soc.economie. which have longed helped users.
One user of the alt.hierarchy was very upset over the decision. “This is ridiculous. I actually met my wife on alt.personals, 14 years ago… I still use usenet - there are a lot good discussions and a person can get answers to questions on specific topics pretty quickly. It’s nice to have a decentralized place to hold discussions, one that is not beholden to a sysadmin to correctly run a forum, one that’s free of blinking gifs and flash ads.”