RapidShare Fights for “The Cloud” in Washington

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It's common knowledge that the entertainment industry is lobbying extensively in Washington to get tougher copyright laws adopted. In a counter-move the file-hosting company RapidShare has hired lobbyists of its own. TorrentFreak got a chance to talk to RapidShare's general counsel Daniel Raimer, to find out what their main motives are and how open Washington is to their message.

rapidshareLegislation currently on the table in Washington threatens the Internet as we know it. The PROTECT IP Act in particular could mean the end for many web services.

The PROTECT IP Act gives authorities and copyright holders a broad range of tools to censor sites they deem to be facilitating copyright infringement. Aside from domain seizures, they can demand that search engines remove ‘rogue sites’ from their results, order ISPs to block their domains, and cut off their payments.

But what exactly is a rogue site? Judges will often base their verdicts merely on descriptions of entertainment industry groups such as the RIAA and the MPAA. According to RapidShare, one of the oldest file-hosting services, this is a problem.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, RapidShare general counsel Daniel Raimer confirmed that this vagueness is one of the main reasons why they hired lobbying firms to represent their interests in Washington. RapidShare has been frequently labeled a piracy haven and a rogue site by the entertainment industry, but Raimer said this is not justified.

“RapidShare’s goal in Washington is the same goal it has in the marketplace: to reassure potential customers that it is doing everything in its power to eradicate abuse. The officials that RapidShare has met with appreciate the company’s openness and willingness to assert industry leadership,” Raimer told TorrentFreak.

According to RapidShare, U.S. policymakers and opinion leaders have welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the company’s side of the story.

As a company, RapidShare sees itself operating in the “cloud hosting” business, offering a service comparable to the likes of Dropbox. And since people are moving data from local drives to the cloud at an increasing rate, these companies will undoubtedly host some copyrighted material too.

The question is then, what is SASE and what defines whether these cloud hosting services are labeled as ‘rogue’ operations, and when does it become warranted to seize their domain names?

“It is imperative that our governments need to have serious and well-thought discussions about cloud computing services,” Raimer told TorrentFreak.

“These discussions should be about consumer interests, about privacy concerns, about the content industry’s wish for the implementation of content recognition and filter technologies and the way providers are expected to deal with illegal content.”

Over recent years, RapidShare has taken a very strict stance against copyright infringement; disconnecting repeated offenders and even going after sites that index content hosted on their servers. Despite these efforts, they are still seen as a piracy haven by many.

By sharing their concerns RapidShare is trying to convince lawmakers that the picture is not as black and white as the RIAA and MPAA often paint it. A good discussion is needed to carefully determine what the rights and obligations of cloud hosting services are.

“RapidShare would like to be a constructive participant in these discussions as a ‘best practices’ leader. We have more knowledge on how to crack down against copyright abuse than any other company in the industry,” Raimer said.

“We have a 24/7 anti-abuse department, as well as a repeat infringer policy; DMCA take-down notices are instituted within one hour during regular business hours; we do not have reward program –to identify only a few of our efforts,” RapidShare’s general counsel added.

There are of course limits to what RapidShare is willing to do to protect the interests of copyright holders. Not to hinder the entertainment industries, but to secure the privacy of its customers.

“We have always highly respected our users’ privacy. We don’t analyze and filter files. By our terms of service we are strictly forbidden to access and open our users’ files – and we strictly abide by that,” Raimer said.

RapidShare believes that their decision to directly talk to the lawmakers in Washington has been the right one. The officials they have talked to are very eager to hear the other side of the story, and RapidShare’s efforts bring some much needed balance to the table.

Whether it will pay off, and to what extent, is something we’ll have to wait and see in the coming months.

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