Of all the file locker websites out there, Rapidshare has been one of the biggest copyright lobbyist facilitators. It didn’t shut itself down in the wake of remote backup site targeting by law enforcement, but it did bottleneck free accounts and make all sorts of other measures designed to help curb piracy. Despite these efforts however, one German court felt that it wasn’t far enough and has now demanded that the site keep an eye on external websites that might link to copyright protected content on Rapidshare.
However this ruling is far from simple and some may think more than slightly contradictory. While it clarified that Rapidshare was not responsible for the content uploaded by its users and therefore had no obligation to monitor each and every file sent to the file locker service, it should be required to monitor links on externals websites that send people to Rapidshare, in case they should link to pirated content.
This is of course quite simple in terms of the technology required but in practice, it’s a mammoth task. It also sounds like a very roundabout way of suggesting Rapidshare is indeed responsible for its users’ uploads, but without making it obvious.
As an added incentive to make sure Rapidshare complies, the court also ruled that if these measures don’t prove to be effective in curbing piracy on the site, Rapidshare may be legally required to remove the ability to visit the site anonymously. As TorrentFreak points out, Rapidshare already tracks the IP addresses of users, but it may be forced to require proof of identification from users in the future.
While Rapidshare appealed this court mandate to the Supreme court, it was rejected.
You can sympathise with the file locker site too. Being singled out like this seems like an odd measure, as there are many sites running similar services, Drop Box and MEGA being some of the biggest players. It could perhaps be argued by Rapidshare, that since it is a foreign company (Swiss based) that the German court is being anti-competitive by not applying the same restrictions to any German file locker sites.
Of course this could just be the start of a snowballing effect in Germany, which could make it much harder for locals to back up their content remotely – without the provider looking over their shoulder.
Commenters don’t seem too surprised by this story, despite its implications. The general consensus seems to be that ultimately, once you acquiesce to the movie/music industry lobbyists with a restriction on your site, that they’ll come back with more.
KitGuru Says: It seems that with the way Rapidshare has treated customers over the past few years, this won’t affect many of you since you’ve probably moved on by this point. But if not, will this make you?