Earlier this year U.S. lawmakers proposed a draconian anti-piracy legislation known as the PROTECT IP Act. When the proposal becomes law, U.S. authorities and copyright holders will have the power to seize domains, block websites and censor search engines to prevent copyright infringements. But file-hosting service RapidShare have a lot to lose by its introduction and are now spending a great deal of money countering the views of pro-copyright lobbyists.
Late last year both the MPAA and RIAA informed the Office of the US Trade Representative that RapidShare is a piracy haven, a so-called rogue website.
In the hope of correcting this and other misconceptions surrounding their operations, RapidShare then took the unprecedented step of hiring the lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide, who also work for Google.
Initially, little was known about the priorities of RapidShare in Washington, but the most recent lobbying report filed by Dutko reveals that the PROTECT IP Act is high up the list. For good reason, because if the bill becomes law RapidShare could be one of the first to be put out of business, in the United States at least.
Under the PROTECT IP Act, authorities (and copyright holders) will have a broad range of tools to censor sites they deem to be facilitating copyright infringement, starting with domain seizures.
In case a domain is not registered or controlled by a U.S. company, authorities can order search engines to remove the website from their search results and order ISPs to block the website.
Although the above measures are already quite far-reaching, the bill also allows for private copyright holders to use some of the same tools as the Government. Without due process, copyright holders can obtain a court order to prevent payment providers and ad-networks from doing business with sites that allegedly facilitate copyright infringement.
One of the many problems of such a law is who gets to decide what the definition of a “rogue website” is. In common with other file-sharing platforms, RapidShare is often labeled as seriously problematic, despite the fact that they’ve been found to operate legally by a U.S. federal court. This could lead to a situation where hundreds of legitimate businesses are virtually shut down because the entertainment industry sees them as a threat.
To make lawmakers aware of these threats and to improve their image in Washington, RapidShare has already spent $260,000 in lobbying efforts during the first half of 2011.
The PROTECT IP Act, currently placed on hold by Senator Ron Wyden, is crucial in this regard as the RIAA and MPAA have already labeled RapidShare as a rogue website. This means that when the bill is signed into law the file-hoster could be one of the first companies to be targeted.
Whether RapidShare’s lobbying efforts in Washington will pay off is yet to be seen. It is no secret that entertainment industry groups are lobbying extensively in favor of the PROTECT IP Act, with much bigger budgets. That said, it’s certainly better than standing idly by.
In the coming months RapidShare is expected to continue their lobbying efforts at the White House Office, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Not only against the PROTECT IP Act, but to improve the image of their company and protect their rights and those of other file-hosting services.