Digital MegaUpload Timeline

RapidShare publishes responsible practices paper

By | Published on Monday 23 April 2012


As the German courts sided mainly with collecting society GEMA in its long-running legal dispute with YouTube on Friday, and with MegaUpload facing those criminal charges in the US, European file-transfer giant RapidShare published a paper last week calling on cloud storage companies to go “above and beyond” to help copyright owners ensure their digital lockers are not used to aid infringement.

While the American content industries got all hot and bothered about MegaUpload, in Europe it was more often RapidShare being criticised by the content industries as they became concerned that the growth of file-transfer and cloud-storage services was providing a new digital framework for online-copyright infringement that the music and movie industries’ piracy-trackers weren’t equipped to monitor.

In the main RapidShare has used the same old defences as most of its competitors in such disputes (“we can’t be liable for our customers’ actions”), albeit with some success – it’s probably won as many copyright actions as it’s lost. But with the feeling that 2012 is the year of the copyright clamp down, with the Mega raids, the final Pirate Bay ruling in Sweden and the mounting legal challenge faced by Grooveshark (and despite the SOPA debacle in the US), Rapidshare seems keen to be seen as the cloud storage set up that doesn’t just piss on copyright law.

In its ‘Responsible Practices For Cloud Storage Services’ document, RapidShare calls on its industry to go beyond the obligations set down in US copyright law (ie the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which offers tech companies more protection than in most other jurisdictions), including monitoring for repeat copyright infringers on their networks and taking action, and ensuring any bonuses offered to uploaders who generate lots of download traffic have done so without infringing any third party’s rights.

Which is all lovely. Though some rights owners remain cautious of RapidShare’s intent, while others have been openly critical, either accusing the file-transfer company of paying only lip service to copyright issues, or of explicitly not going far enough to tackle problems. The real issue remains that RapidShare – like MegaUpload – enables users to make their uploaded content accessible to the whole world, rather than just named friends and colleagues, which makes the tech firm’s servers a destination point for those looking for free music and movie files.

The Recording Industry Association Of America responded thus: “Unfortunately the new measures announced fall short of the goal to meaningfully and effectively reduce the massive amount of copyright theft occurring on its service”.