After the takedown of the Megaupload Empire, piracy watchdogs have become more active worldwide. Recently, a German court has ordered RapidShare to filter all user uploads. It is a well-known fact that no file-sharing service is free of illegal content. The ruling confirms three verdicts from a lower court, all in cases started by book publishers and music rights groups. Although RapidShare has made early efforts to comply with piracy laws, those efforts do not in any way guarantee a safe passage, when it comes to cases like these.
The case leading up to this ruling was started by the music rights group GEMA. They, along with some book publishers started a case that resulted in a ruling that none of the books or songs from the plaintiff should appear on RapidShare. Clearly, RapidShare has to deploy massive filtering and signature checking mechanisms for files uploaded by its users. There are over 4000 files in the filter list.
The Chief Executive of German booksellers association, Alexander Skipis, celebrated the victory, saying
Internet sites can no longer avoid their responsibilities, and profit from copyright infringing uploads of anonymous users.
However, little did he know that the verdict of this case was contrary to the one passed by the European Court of Justice in a similar case last month. The verdict rejected any possibility of filtering copyrighted content to protect the privacy of users. Clearly, RapidShare will appeal this ruling, given the history of a similar case, which is in favor of them.
RapidShare has issued a press release on the premature celebrations of GEMA.
Baar/Switzerland, 16 March 2012. On 14 March 2012, the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg affirmed injunctive relief sought by GEMA and the publishers Campus and De Gruyter against RapidShare in three separate judgments. Both the German Publishers and Booksellers Association and GEMA issued “jubilant statements” immediately afterwards. In doing so they are conveniently ignoring the fact that it is considered unprofessional to evaluate a judgment before the written reasons for the judgment are on hand. Only then will it become apparent which party can truly celebrate a judgment as a success.
However, the Higher Regional court of Hamburg has issued a press release indicating a possible reason for the plaintiffs’ hectic actions: in the present cases the Court has amended its previous position, according to which RapidShare’s business model was not approved by the legal system. For the first time, the Court has also acknowledged that files only become “publicly accessible” when users publish the links in the Internet. In the past the previous diverging assessment had resulted in extensive obligations, already when uploading a file. Accordingly, the Court now sees the duties of RapidShare in particular in fighting the issue of piracy where illegal files are actually distributed, namely on the respective link pages. That is exactly what RapidShare has already been engaged in for years.
Alexandra Zwingli, CEO of RapidShare: “Of course, we will only make a detailed statement once we have the complete text. However, I am convinced that our tried-and-tested actions against copyright infringements are the right way to go, and I am pleased that the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg has confirmed as much in its press release. This demonstrates that we are not only technological, but also legal pioneers in cloud storage.”