Dropbox Bans BitTorrent Startup Boxopus Over Piracy Concerns

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Dropbox has banned the new BitTorrent startup Boxopus from accessing its API. The company fears that BitTorrent's piracy stigma may rub off on the successful cloud storage service. The Boxopus team is disappointed by this anti-innovation move. Thousands of dollars in developments costs have gone down the drain for what they believe is an irrational fear imposed by a growing copyright lobby.

boxopusOn Saturday we covered Boxopus, a new startup that allows people to download torrents directly to their dropbox folders.

The news was quickly picked up by many other technology sites and as a result the service’s member count surged to more than 50,000. Boxopus didn’t go unnoticed by the people at Dropbox either.

However, where most reviews heralded the usefulness of the service, Dropbox sees it as a threat.

Although Boxopus is a neutral technology, BitTorrent’s piracy stigma is something Dropbox wants to stay far away from. Apparently, the company believes that a ‘perceived’ link to piracy is enough to ban Boxopus from accessing its API.

A few hours ago the Boxopus team received the following email from one of Dropbox’s engineers (emphasis added):

“It’s come to our attention that latest Boxopus features could be perceived as encouraging users to violate copyright using Dropbox.”

“Violating copyright is against our terms of service, so we are terminating your app’s API access. Once your access is revoked, any API calls your app makes will fail.”

Shortly after this email the API access was pulled, effectively killing the Boxopus service.

To the developers the news came as a shock. Not only was Boxopus adhering to all DMCA requirements, Dropbox also explicitly approved an alpha version of Boxopus weeks earlier.

At the time no alarm bells went off, so the developers continued investing in the product.

“Once the alpha version was approved we were pretty sure that Dropbox was okay with it, so we put our efforts into optimizing the service. It took us 3 months to finish the product with a team of 5 people, which was a $30,000 USD investment,” Boxopus founder Alex tells TorrentFreak.

But now, just a few days after the service had its breakthrough online, the service is dead. Aside from the massive financial loss, the Boxopus team is also disappointed by the way innovation has been stifled by Dropbox due to a perceived threat that may not even be justified.

“This behavior makes it hard to believe that developers are treated fairly and innovation is welcomed at Dropbox. It seems like legit and pre-approved applications may be blocked simply by someone’s will although they act within the scope of company’s terms and international laws,” Alex says.

The Boxopus developers are not blind to the fact that people use BitTorrent to share copyrighted files, but that was in no way what their service was designed for.

“Many people see BitTorrent as a synonym of piracy, however, a lot of interesting legal stuff can be found in BitTorrent networks and this is what Boxopus is made for.”

Nevertheless, Dropbox has made up its mind and a BitTorrent download service is not allowed. To save what’s left the Boxopus team is now negotiating with other cloud storage services to continue their business with a more tolerant partner.


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