Hey Lifehacker, after all the buzz about Dallas Buyers Club and the related court decision it would seem to me that the infringement would be for distributing copies. If this is the case would Usenet users be somewhat in the clear since it's purely downloads? Thanks, No Seeding
Title image remixed from Leremy (Shutterstock).
First point: I'm not a lawyer, and nor are you. So none of this should be construed as advice that you will be "in the clear" if you're downloading copyrighted content under any circumstances.
Secondly: we're still a long way from any kind of resolution in the Dallas Buyers Club case, so it's really pointless to draw any firm conclusions on that score.
Thirdly: it's certainly true that many copyright cases concerning online piracy have concentrated on people distributing the copies, rather than just downloading them. This comes down to basic economics. If you can demonstrate that someone has accessed a single illegal copy of a movie, the economic extent of the damage is likely to be limited to the cost of buying that movie. It's not worth paying an expensive lawyer to claim $20 from someone. But if you can demonstrate that someone shared a copy that was in turn downloaded thousands of times, the potential damages are much higher (and the lawyer may be a worthwhile investment).
That doesn't mean that it's suddenly legal to download from Usenet — it just means that the effort of tracing someone who has done so might not be worthwhile. Since Usenet activity is much more difficult to detect, even the introduction of a three strikes policy might not result in you being prosecuted.
Again, though, you're still breaking the law if you're downloading copyrighted material. Whether you're comfortable with as a matter of ethics is ultimately your decision.
Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.