The demise of Megaupload has left a bit of a void in the file sharing community, and rival sites such as RapidShare are beginning to struggle with ways to combat the influx of questionable content. Last month representatives from RapidShare boldly announced to Arstechnicia that they were “not concerned” with the government crackdown on Megaupload, because file hosting is a legitimate business if operated properly. Either way it appears as though they have had to make a few policy changes as a result of their new found popularity, and these measures are clearly an attempt to drive away the un-wanted traffic and legal attention that comes along with it.
RIAA and MPAA are pulling out all the stops to suck the life out of file sharing sites like Megaupload and Rapidshare. Initially, they pinned their hopes on the contentious Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), a bill that seeks to prevent credit card companies and payment processors from rendering their services to sites actively associated with infringing activities.
But with COICA effectively lying dead in the water ever since it was blocked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the powerful trade organizations have turned their focus to goading payment processors, ISPs and, ad networks into abandoning sites that aid piracy.
In a statement sent to ZeroPaid, Megaupload stressed that it’s actually “a legitimate business operating within the boundaries of the law” that has never been sued for copyright infringement. The company also downplayed the financial value of its relationship with MasterCard, even suggesting that should the credit card company cease payment processing for the popular file sharing site, “they will have a problem not us.”
Megaupload made it very clear that it isn’t too pleased with MasterCard’s activist zeal: “Are payment processors trying to become the legislature of the new decade? Will it be them, rather than elected governments, who decide what’s right and what’s wrong? Will ballots be replaced by wallets, will people cast their votes by choosing a conservative or a liberal credit card? First WikiLeaks, then cyberlockers – what’s next, and where will it end? Will you no longer be able to settle your ISP bill by MasterCard, as your carrier of choice may profit from copyright infringement?”
Uber popular file-hosting service RapidShare has won a court victory against Perfect 10, a California-based adult media company specializing in, um, NSFW content. In the lawsuit, Perfect 10 accused RapidShare of infringing the copyrights of a bunch of its images and requested an injunction, but the request was rejected by the U.S. District Court of California, which ruled that RapidShare can't be accused of copyright infringements.
"The view that RapidShare does not promote any infringements of copyright, unlike other file-hosts, appears to be gradually catching on," Christian Schmid, founder of RapidShare said. "It is a milestone for us that this is also happening in the US. We are happy that the court in California has not bought into the odd line of argument put forward by Perfect 10 and we look forward to increasingly emphasize the major difference between RapidShare and illegal share-hosts."
RapidShare has been on a legal roll as of late. Earlier this month, a German Court of Appeal overturned a verdict in a case against movie rental company Capelight Pictures, with the verdict stating that RapidShare isn't liable for copyright infringement acts committed by its users, TorrentFreak reports.
Rapidshare is one of the most popular file-hosting services in the world. It is not in an entirely enviable position, though, as the affection it commands among its patrons is offset by the contempt it receives from content owners affected by the abundance of unauthorized content on its servers. The courts have time and again made it clear Rapidshare has no choice but to proactively filter content. Having been pushed into a tight corner, the Germany-based file host has come up with a plan to pacify the entertainment industry.
“If a user finds out that several attempts to download an illegal copy of a DVD are in vain, and if his several attempts to ’steal’ this DVD have just brought him to an online-store, he may finally be frustrated and willing to purchase a licensed version of this movie,” Chang wrote in a letter to entertainment industry executives. “We are willing to invest substantially into this online store and I would be glad to not just talk about RapidShare as a threat for the entertainment industry, but also about RapidShare as an interesting option to sell your products.”
Rapidshare owes most of the several petabytes of data it hosts to its popularity as a safe haven for both uploaders and downloaders of unauthorized content. It is difficult to imagine its success without the free reign its users have enjoyed over the years, although it denies ever conniving at illegal file sharing. Ironically, Rapidshare has no recollection of its past business practices and even accuses competitors of “trying really hard to gain the favor of those users, who rely on cyberlockers to spread and distribute copyright protected content.”
You might not be familiar with paragraph 101 of German copyright law, but if the latest happenings turn into a trend, expect to hear more and more about it. Paragraph 101 grants content owners the legal right to seek a court order to force ISPs to divulge personal information based on IP addresses, and so far, at least one record label has allegedly done just that.
According to German news outlet Gulli, a Rapidshare user found his home raided by local law enforcement after it was discovered he had uploaded a copy of Metallica's new album "Death Magnetic" to his account. The illegal upload occurred a day before the album's worldwide release, prompting the band's record label to request the user's IP address from Rapidshare, which it willingly gave up, and then had Deutsche Telekom divulge who was behind the IP.
Given the success and ease with which personally identifiable information was obtained, some are voicing concerns that record labels might next target BitTorrent and other P2P networks armed with paragraph 101.