A Higher Regional Court in Germany has ruled that file-hosting service RapidShare must proactively filter thousands of files uploaded by its users. The Court confirmed three separate verdicts by a lower court, in cases that were started by book publishers and a music rights group. RapidShare has yet to decide whether it will appeal the verdicts, and informs TorrentFreak that there’s also positive news to report.
In common with every file-sharing service, RapidShare is used by some of its members to host infringing material.
During the past several years the Swiss-based cyberlocker has made tremendous efforts to cooperate with copyright holders and limit copyright infringements. But for some their efforts don’t go far enough. This has resulted in a variety of rightsholders starting legal proceedings against RapidShare, and not without success.
The most recent win came yesterday when a Higher Regional Court in Hamburg confirmed three rulings of a lower court. According to these verdicts, the file-hoster hasn’t done enough to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded to its servers.
The cases, which involve thousands of titles, were started by music rights group GEMA and book publishers De Gruyter and Campus.
The Higher Regional Court in Hamburg reportedly ruled that RapidShare has to monitor user uploads to ensure that none of these titles are put onto their servers, which implies a mandatory filter and monitoring of all user uploads.
While a written copy of the verdict has not yet been made public, the book industry celebrated the outcome as a landmark victory.
“Internet sites can no longer avoid their responsibilities, and profit from copyright infringing uploads of anonymous users,” says Alexander Skipis, chief executive of the German Booksellers Association.
RapidShare is irked by this early celebration, which its spokesman Daniel Raimer describes as unprofessional.
“We consider it as unprofessional to assess a judgement before the written reasons for the judgment are available. Only then you can determine which party can indeed celebrate a verdict as a success,” Raimer told TorrentFreak.
Raimer explains that the copyright holders are leaving out essential details that are actually quite positive for the cyberlocker. Previously the lower court described RapidShare’s entire business as unlawful, but that decision has not been overturned.
“There is a possible reason for the rushed approach, particularly that of the Booksellers Association. In the hearing, the Higher Regional Court indicated that it would deviate from its former position according under which RapidShare’s business model was not tolerated by the legal system.”
“That shows that the release of a ‘jubilation announcement’ by the plaintiffs after the publication of the reasons for the judgment would simply not be possible anymore. We are relaxed and look forward to reading the written reasons for the judgment that are expected to be published within the next few days,” Raimer said.
It’s worth nothing that the German verdicts appear to contradict an earlier ruling by the highest European court. In February the European Court of Justice ruled that hosting sites can’t proactively filter copyrighted content as that would violate the privacy of users and hinder freedom of information.
RapidShare further informed us that they have yet to decide whether they’ll appeal the verdicts. Considering the European Court of Justice ruling, this might not be such a bad idea.