Court orders file-sharing site RapidShare to monitor for copyrighted content [updated]

A court in Germany ruled on Thursday that RapidShare must implement a system that proactively filters user uploads in order to prevent the illegal sharing of copyrighted content. Like Megaupload, which was shuttered earlier this year, RapidShare allows users to upload large files and share them online. The service has become widely known for hosting copyrighted software, music, movies and books that are then shared illegally on forums, blogs and a variety of of other websites. Following verdicts in three separate cases filed by two book publishers and an group representing music publishers called GEMA, the firm has been ordered to take a more active role in preventing infringing content from being uploaded to its servers, TorrentFreak reported. RapidShare has not yet stated whether or not it will appeal the decision.

UPDATE: RapidShare has issued a press release in response to this ruled, which now follows below.

Premature rejoicing at GEMA and the German Publishers and Booksellers Association

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.”

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