RapidShare Overtures Snubbed, “Must Do Better” Say Labels

This week, file-hosting service RapidShare published an anti-piracy manifesto with guidelines on how cyberlocker and cloud hosting sites should conduct their business going forward. But the proposals from the Swiss-based service, which go far beyond their requirements under the law, received a lukewarm reception from rightsholders who say they don't go far enough. RapidShare believes that they do, and that rightsholders should focus on sites that deliberately generate revenue from infringement.

Since the unexpected shutdown of Megaupload in January there has been significant realignment in the cyberlocker market, with many sites changing their business models and some pulling out of the business altogether.

For RapidShare, one of the market leaders, taking either of these actions wasn’t an option. The company has long insisted that it does business legally and has been trying extra hard in recent times to tackle infringement. Its scale means that closing down was never on the cards.

What RapidShare has been doing for some time now is promoting itself as a good digital citizen prepared to go that extra mile. A company appreciative of copyright holders’ needs but one that balances those requirements against subscribers’ rights.

This week RapidShare went even further when it published an anti-piracy manifesto containing guidelines on how responsible cyberlocker and cloud hosting sites should conduct their business going forward.

“RapidShare continues to work with all parties and wants to serve as an industry ‘best practices’ leader in accountability and transparency,” RapidShare CEO Alexandra Zwingli told TorrentFreak.

But while RapidShare’s proposals go far beyond file-hosting services’ responsibilities under the law, the response from rightsholders has been tepid at best.

In a comment to CNET a spokesman for the top four record companies made it clear that although RapidShare’s overtures represent a “commendable step forward”, the company will have to go even further if it is to meet the standards required by the labels.

“Unfortunately the new measures announced fall short if the goal is indeed to meaningfully and effectively reduce the massive amount of copyright theft occurring on [RapidShare's] service,” the unnamed spokesman added.

When comparing these comments and a statement given to us by RapidShare CEO Alexandra Zwingli, there is clearly a mismatch between the RIAA’s assessments and those of the Swiss-based file-hoster.

“Contrary to unverified ‘studies,’ RapidShare believes that by any practical measure, online piracy on its servers is very small,” says Zwingli. “Nevertheless, RapidShare has committed nearly one-third of its staff to policing and responding seven days a week to copyright infringement. DMCA take-down notices are instituted within one hour during regular business hours.”

But despite their efforts on takedowns (1 hour response is very impressive indeed), the RIAA still has issues and it’s interesting where their spokesman draws a line in the sand. The implication is that on one side are sites that provide personal storage lockers where users place their own files for their own use. On the other are sites that allow users to upload files for sharing with anyone online.

“RapidShare allows unlimited distribution of copyrighted files among millions of anonymous strangers without taking adequate steps to prevent this illegal activity,” the labels’ spokesman added.

Perhaps not surprisingly, RapidShare believes the measure of a responsible hosting site lies elsewhere.

“RapidShare fully agrees that the file hosting marketplace provides opportunities for providers and seekers of copyright protected files,” Zwingli told TorrentFreak.

“However, RapidShare believes that a distinction must be made between legitimate companies providing above-board services to users, the vast majority of which are engaged in lawful activity, from illegitimate entities for whom revenue is linked to the purveyance of illegal, copyright infringing activity.

“Unlike other file hosting sites, RapidShare maintains no incentive programs whatsoever, the likes of which reward users for the number of times their files are downloaded. The RIAA and Policymakers need to create distinctions between those companies, such as RapidShare, that are cracking down on abuse and ‘shadow actors’ that tacitly encourage copyright infringement.

“RapidShare welcomes an open dialogue with the RIAA as RapidShare believes they share goals to combat piracy and foster technology,” Zwingli concludes.

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