Collections society GEMA claims to represent more than 60,000 composers, authors and music publishers worldwide, protecting their copyrights. After a request by the group, The Regional Court in Hamburg has ruled that hosting service Rapidshare is forbidden from making any of 5,000 music tracks from GEMA’s collection available on the Internet.
Rapidshare was also ordered to delete any and all of those same tracks from its servers and ensure that they are not uploaded again by users. Previously Rapidshare had been using file hashes to recognize tracks that were already removed after requests from GEMA, to ensure that they weren’t uploaded again. The court decided that the technique used was ineffective.
The court found Rapidshare guilty of breaches of copyright law and estimated the value of the tracks at €24 million ($34 million).
“The decision of the Hamburg Regional Court is a milestone in GEMA’s fight against the illegal use of musical works on the Internet,” said Dr. Harald Heker, Chief Executive Officer of GEMA. “We are confident that in this way we will be able to reduce the illegal use of the GEMA repertoire on the Internet to a negligible level,” he added.
Understandably, Rapidshare sought to downplay the ruling. Bobby Chang, COO of RapidShare, Switzerland, said: “We do not consider the court’s decision to be a breakthrough. As other proceedings in similar disputes with GEMA have shown, there is considerable disparity amongst the individual courts in some cases.”
Noting that the courts of appeal “tend to restrict the scope of the decisions made by the lower courts,” Chang said it would make more sense to offer music fans the right products and services at the right price to “open up a new source of income for music-markets on the Internet.”
Update: We initially reported that Rapidshare was fined $34 million on the back of this report. This information is wrong, the court only stated that the value of the tracks was estimated at $34 million. The article is updated accordingly and we’re sorry for the confusion.