In the file-hosting and file-linking worlds there are laws in place to protect site operators from liability for their users’ actions.
When a site operator is informed via a valid notice that content being hosted or linked to is infringing copyright, removing or disabling access to that content ensures protection under relevant U.S. and EU legislation. That said, there are some gray areas which turn the tables on liability.
Some sites, often forum-style indexes that link to copyright movies, music and software hosted elsewhere, have more than just casual links with the external sites where the content is actually hosted. In fact, some anti-piracy outfits claim that many are operated by the same owners, or so close as to make little difference.
The idea is that one site provides the content while the other supplies links and valuable eyeballs. Acting together the pair collect all the revenue from advertising, affiliate schemes, and subscription payments, while maintaining in public that they still qualify for safe harbor.
Being able to prove that this is the reality behind the scenes is another matter, but this week Italian police say they managed to do just that. Reportedly exposing the connections between a linking site and an associated cyberlocker, police presented evidence to the authorities and obtained a domain blocking injunction from a local court.
As a result DDLStorage, a file-hosting site that has grown substantially in the past 15 months serving 460 million files while allegedly pocketing 1.3 million euros, is now inaccessible by direct means in Italy.
“This is a really important case for the anti-piracy battle,” says Luca Vespignani, General Secretary of anti-piracy group FPM.
“For the first time in Italy we can unequivocally reveal the presence of a direct and illegal connection between a pirate website and its cyberlocker. It is essential to investigate the organization of these structures to seriously disrupt digital piracy.”
The investigation into DDLStorage found that the site started in Italy and had 120 servers located first in France and then the Netherlands.
“Just 3 per cent of users on the platform uploaded files and only 0.2 per cent were receiving revenues for the content they uploaded,” FPM said in a statement. “Uploaders were paid the more their content was downloaded by other users, with individual payments running up to €40,000 per year.”
TorrentFreak contacted DDLStorage and asked them for a response to the allegations that they’re involved in a criminal enterprise.
“We are not in Italy, we are not an Italian company,” the site told us. “We are online without any problems. We are working to resolve this problem with the Italian users.”
DDLStorage is indeed online, as the injunction only relates to Italian ISPs. However, the site’s comments suggest that it could be attempting to find a workaround to continue serving not only the world market, but the Italian market again too.