German Court Rules Rapidshare Must Diligently Remove Copyrighted Material

The Hamburg district court ruled Tuesday that the file-hosting giant Rapidshare has insufficiently attempted to prevent piracy on their site. In a ruling that could sound the death knell for Rapidshare, the site must not only continue to remove copyrighted material from the site, but it must also “proactively check content before publishing it" if the material comes from a user who has past infringements.

Unlike the United States, Germany has no “safe harbor” laws that exempt a website from liability when individual users upload copyrighted materials, providing the site administrators remove infringing content once notified. Such provisions have kept YouTube relatively safe from the snares of lawsuits, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for Rapidshare.

In order to curb piracy as much as possible, Rapidshare uses a hash filter to prevent previously removed material from reaching the site and employs six full-time people to scour the site and remove copyrighted material. The German court, however, determined the filter could be too easily circumvented and the anti-piracy staff was not effective in patrolling for infringements. Rapidshare argued if they were required to check every file individually before it was uploaded to the site, there'd be no way for the business to stay afloat. The court replied in its decision, "A business model that doesn't use common methods of prevention cannot claim the protection of the law." Charming.

If you happen to know German, you can read the court’s full decision here. For everybody else, send off those ZIP files of cat pictures to your gramma and pornographic films to your friends while you can, because Rapidshare might not be there forever.

(Via Ars Technica and P2P Blog .)

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