There has been some controversy lately over at Newzbin. Seems the MPAA is extending their witch hunt into Usenet. Through the debacle, community members have drawn parallels between torrents and NZBs, which is inaccurate.
There is a fundamental difference between torrents and NZBs. Torrents need the tracker to connect the swarm, to know who has which pieces and who needs which (though decentralized models exist).
With NZBs, they point to files located elsewhere. Those files are available independent of Newzbin. You don’t NEED an NZB to get a binary. You can grab the headers from your news host, and then grab the files that way. All an NZB does is save you the legwork by telling you that hey, these are the article IDs you want. Like somebody saying “hey, this is the ISBN of the book you’re looking for”. You can find the book without it, having the ISBN just makes it a bit easier.
Search engines should never be held accountable for the content they index. The distributors of that content should. If a search engine can direct you to objectionable content, great. If you want it taken down, now you have a way of finding that it’s there.
Without Newzbin (or another indexing service), it’ll be a lot more work to remove copyright-violating content from Usenet. I’d think that it would be better to use it as the tool it is, find the content you want removed, and send removal requests to the major news hosts. If I recall, Usenet servers support article cancellation (though under what conditions I don’t know), typically for spam removal.
Newzbin is not in the same boat as a torrent tracker (though both have legitimate purposes). It is much closer to a traditional search engine, but instead of indexing the web (HTTP), it indexes usenet (NNTP). Different protocol, same function.
You can’t fairly disallow search, because some people are using it for illicit purposes. Should we shut down a web search because people are searching for information on illegal things (manufacturing of drugs, explosives, whatever)? Should image searches be banned because people could search for unlawful images?
Disallowing these sorts of things is a dangerous blow to freedom. In any system, the innocent majority should not suffer for the actions of a guilty minority.