Sideloading isn’t particularly difficult but it is a fairly cumbersome process. However, apps like Filelinked provided a solution by indexing hundreds of apps stored outside official ecosystems while making them easy to install. While this is not necessarily illegal, Filelinked attracted lots of users interested in downloading piracy apps. As a result, this became one of the main drivers of its popularity.
In June, Filelinked disappeared without warning or subsequent announcement, with its silence bearing all the hallmarks of a hostile anti-piracy takedown. Earlier this week that theory was proven correct when Filelinked’s main domain (Filelinked.com) and its former domain (DroidAdmin.com) fell under the control of the Motion Picture Association (MPA).
Filelinked Takedown Was Carried Out By ACE
In an announcement yesterday, the powerful Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment confirmed that it was indeed behind the closure of Filelinked.
“Once a popular bulk downloader tool for Amazon Fire TV and Android devices, the Filelinked app was used to sideload applications. More specifically, users could install pirate applications on their Android devices via unofficial sources,” ACE reports.
“This service was popular in both the US and in Europe, running operations out of Freising [Germany].”
ACE provides no specific details on the terms of the shutdown but, if similar actions are any yardstick, a cease-and-desist notice and some kind of settlement were likely involved. That could include monetary compensation but, an agreement to throw in the towel and hand over domains was clearly part of the deal.
What Now For Filelinked Replacements
Since the closure of Filelinked, several similarly functional apps and services (Unlinked, FileSynced and Applinked) have been gaining traction. That’s to be expected due to the effectiveness of Filelinked and the gap it left in the market. But it also raises questions of how sustainable the replacements will be given what happened to Filelinked and whether the new kids on the block learned any lessons from Filelinked’s demise.
Without being privy to the details of the cease and desist sent to Filelinked, it’s difficult to know on what basis ACE claimed the operation to be illegal. These services don’t link directly to copyrighted content such as movies and TV shows. Neither do they (usually) host the apps that ACE is so concerned about. That is taken care of using hyperlinks to online sources, many of which are provided by app users.
However, those are not the only issues at play here.
Intent is Significant
An important factor that regularly raises its head in copyright cases is that of intent. To provide a loose example, when the RIAA had LimeWire shut down in 2010 it was declared to have “intentionally encouraged infringement” by LimeWire users, was used “overwhelmingly for infringement” and the company knew about the “substantial infringement being committed” by its users.
In contrast, the massively popular uTorrent application (which, like LimeWire, has significant non-infringing uses yet is widely used for piracy) remains untouched because it has never been promoted for piracy purposes. That’s something the Filelinked replacements would have been wise to factor into their operations right from the beginning.
Whether that’s indeed the case will be for ACE to determine but, without any doubt, they will already know. These apps/services are widely promoted and/or mentioned on sites like YouTube and there are already dozens of tutorials on the web explaining how they are used. These are pretty high-profile tools already.
All of that being said, the intent angle represents just one of the attack vectors available to ACE but, in reality and simply being pragmatic, none of them are especially pivotal until a case goes to court. For good reason, that rarely happens. Even more rarely does a case go to a full trial.
What ACE has shown, even among the bigger players in the piracy ecosystem, is that it is prepared to settle disputes quietly without the need for legal action. Importantly, though, it does that with the unprecedented financial backing of the world’s most powerful media companies supported by the best lawyers money can buy.
Not many people fancy such a lopsided fight, even Fire TV developers.