4Shared, the largest file-sharing website on the Internet, has been sued in an attempt to reveal the identities of the person or persons who uploaded copyrighted files. The case was filed at a US federal court by Modulo Security Solutions, who are trying to identify the alleged uploader of confidential documents belonging to the company. If successful, the case may have implications for others who share copyrighted files on cyberlockers.
With 10 million registered users and more than 2.5 billion page views each month, 4Shared is believed to be the largest file-sharing website.
Needless to say, a site of this size can’t possible avoid some of its users occasionally uploading copyrighted files. In common with most websites that deal with user uploaded content, 4Shared allows rightsholders to send takedown notices to remove copyrighted files that are posted without permission, but for some this is not enough.
Modulo Security Solutions has filed a lawsuit at a federal court in New Jersey in an attempt to reveal the identities of the person or persons who uploaded confidential documents to 4Shared. The security company told the court that it plans to take civil action against the alleged uploader(s) for copyright infringement related offenses, but that it can only do so if 4Shared hands over their personal details.
In the complaint Modulo states that while 4Shared took swift action to remove the infringing files from their website, it refused to give up any information on their users without a court order. This claim is backed up by a copy of an email 4Shared sent Modulo early December.
Interestingly, the lawsuit was filed “ex parte,” meaning that 4Shared will not be notified about the legal proceedings. Modulo says it chose to do so because it fears that the cyberlocker may destroy the information when they become aware of the suit.
“Petitioner submits this petition on an ex parte basis because the information that it seeks from Respondent is highly susceptible to deletion or otherwise may be destroyed, either intentionally or inadvertently,” the complaint reads.
Modulo further cites several paragraphs from the 4Shared site which indicate that the data they are after may be destroyed if the case is delayed significantly. Among other things, the 4Shared’s terms of service state that free accounts will be deleted 180 days after they were last accessed.
The cyberlocker also notes that it reserves the right to “disable or remove the accounts of users who infringe the intellectual property rights of others or may expose 4shared to civil or criminal liability.”
While the nature of the case is different from traditional media piracy, its outcome will be watched closely by copyright holders currently suing BitTorrent users. After all, if 4Shared is ordered to hand over customer information including names and IP-addresses, there is no reason why others shouldn’t try the same tactic.
In their complaint Modulo is only asking 4Shared to identify the uploader(s) of the files, not those who have downloaded them. This would make it harder to sue large groups of people as is currently the case with BitTorrent lawsuits, but it’s not unthinkable that other companies will cast a wider net.
At this point it’s unclear what type of information and logs 4Shared has of up- and downloaders, and perhaps more importantly, for how long this data is stored. TorrentFreak contacted 4Shared with a request to comment on their logging policy, and we will add a response as soon as it comes in.
Update: 4Shared comment
“… We will make no public release of any personal information that is collected through our proprietary file sharing tool. All client-specific information gathered through 4shared will be the property of the user.”
Personal information that is collected includes users IP, the exact time and date of the login and upload process. The reason for disclosure of such data can occur only if a crime took place and after appropriate decision of the court. We don’t provide our users info if someone just say so without a legal reason for that.”