Germany came down on RapidShare like...
The German court came down on RapidShare like...

From the Chronicle of Higher Education: A German court, chosen for its friendliness to publishers and copyright law in the past, was the scene of a decision against RapidShare, considered one of the primary sources of pirated texts worldwide.

They have been ordered to make more of an effort to screen for pirated material and keep it off their site, or face fines of 250,000 euros or up to 2 years jail time, per instance, of discovering a pirated book on their site.

Officials for RapidShare, which is based in Switzerland, could not be reached on Tuesday. In the past, the company has argued that it quickly takes down any copyrighted material that users post to the service once officials become aware of it, and that it follows all legal requirements regarding copyright.

The ruling said the company must go further: “It is not only necessary to promptly block access to the specific file, but rather to also take precautions going beyond this in order to prevent to the largest possible extent the occurrence of further similar infringements.”

The publishers involved were: Bedford, Freeman & Worth; Cengage Learning; Elsevier; the McGraw-Hill Companies; Pearson; and John Wiley & Sons.


  1. I must admit to being curious as to what the court would consider reasonable “precautions going beyond” promptly blocking access to reportedly infringing files.

    It’s easy enough to say “do more”, but the Devil is in the details of the implementation.

  2. Very true… and this has been typical of legal responses to this and similar file-sharing problems.
    In short, someone’s going to have to develop specific procedures and practices that companies will by law have to follow, in order to demonstrate to the legal system when asked that they are in compliance. Until then, “Do more” really doesn’t mean anything.

  3. The question is, what legitimate *non-infringing* materials are people posting, and how are those identified? (answer: probably not much worth reading, but that’s another story) The whole point in posting a textbook or other copyrighted work on such a service is so that other people can find it.

    For example, if someone includes an ISBN in their meta-data, well, chances are it is a copyrighted work. The software could scan for ISBNs for just this reason.

    If they make it too difficult to *find* copyrighted works, it stands to reason that people would have less incentive to post them. Pirates must have good meta-data too, if they want their piracy to reach an audience.

  4. I’ve seen a lot of files on rapidshare that have random names and are password protected. Pirates list the file along with the password somewhere else with a link to rapidshare. In these cases rapidshare has no access to the actual data and no way of knowing exactly what it is.

  5. @Jim: That might be something that will have to change.

    In order to review material and confirm its identity and legality, all files will probably have to be vetted by someone, possibly before they will be allowed to be posted. Naming conventions may have to be set and adhered to, to prevent files with confusing or random names from slipping through the cracks. And possibly uploaders will have to be checked, and their identities verified, before they will be allowed to post material.

    None of the steps I’ve outlined above, or any similar steps I’ve not mentioned, will be popular with present users, and they are sure to introduce complexity and impact responsiveness on websites. It may force sites, burdened with all that added bureaucracy, to charge for usage. Some sites, including RapidShare, may go out of business, or be replaced by other entities. And either way, it is sure to mean changes to what users can and cannot do.

    It’s an unpopular reality of our times, to be sure, but it is probably the only way to protect content.

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