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Using Usenet is completely legal. You can compare Usenet to the internet. It is a decentralized network in which users can communicate and share information in so-called newsgroups. In these newsgroups members can discuss all sorts of subjects, which are subdivided into eight hierarchies (the ‘Big 8’).
Next to these hierarchies, there is the alt. * – hierarchy: a collection for everything that is not covered by one of the other hierarchies. The most famous is the alt. Binaries. * Because not only text but also binaries can be posted such as videos, music and pictures, Alt.binaries. * is the section of Usenet where unauthorized action is most common. For example, movies and music are shared by uploaders who do not own the copyright of these files.
You can say that using Usenet is legal, but not everyone is acting legally on Usenet.
What activities on Usenet are illegal?
What kind of activities on Usenet are legal or illegal? Subscribing to newsgroups and reading and commenting on posts is absolutely legal, as long as no defamatory content is posted or human rights are violated. In most cases it is also legally allowed to download files from Usenet. As long as any video and audio files, programs or other files that you download don’t violate any copyright agreement.
Copyright implies that the creator of a work has the exclusive right to disclose and reproduce it. Thus, it is forbidden to upload and download someone else’s work on Usenet without their consent. However, if you want to share files of which you own the copyright – in other words: you’ve made them yourself – that’s completely legal.
Depending on which country you live in, you could be fined for copyright infringement when downloading illegal files from Usenet. In many countries in Europe and North America, new legislation has entered into force in recent years to intensify the prosecution of people who download illegally. These people are generally traced through their IP address, which serves as a digital identification code on the internet.
People that use a VPN when downloading from Usenet can effectively hide their IP address, and are therefore untraceable for copyright organisations.