On February 4th 2010, several large book publishers filed a lawsuit against file-hosting site, RapidShare. The plaintiffs, Bedford, Freeman & Worth and Macmillan, Cengage Learning, Elsevier, The McGraw-Hill Companies and Pearson, are large suppliers of textbooks.
The lawsuit cited 148 titles to which the publishers own the copyright, and demanded that RapidShare stop user-uploaded electronic versions of the same being made available to the public via their file-hosting service.
On February 10th 2010, the District Court in Hamburg handed down a preliminary ruling against RapidShare which ordered that by February 17th the company must stop the book titles named in the lawsuit being made available on their website.
The Court ruled that RapidShare must monitor user uploads to ensure that none of the book titles are put onto their servers and go on to ensure that the public never gains access to copies that somehow slip through this filtering.
According to Inside Higher Ed, every time a prohibited book named in the injunction is made available on RapidShare it could cost the company up to 250,000 euros ($339,000) or even earn company bosses 2 years in jail.
“This ruling is an important step forward. Not only does it affirm that file-sharing copyrighted content without permission is against the law, but it attaches a hefty financial punishment to the host, in this case Rapidshare, for noncompliance,” said Tom Allen, CEO of the Association of American Publishers. “Consider this a shot across the bow for others who attempt to profit from the theft of copyrighted works online,” he added.
While there is little doubt that copyright material is indeed available via RapidShare, a press release by the book publishers oversteps the mark a little by stating that the company “encourages the unauthorized uploading of content with a variety of reward programs.” While RapidShare could be accused of many things, openly encouraging its customers to upload pirate material is not one of them.
This is not the first time that RapidShare has been ordered to filter content. In 2009, the Regional Court in Hamburg ruled that the company must pro-actively filter around 5,000 music tracks from music industry group GEMA’s catalog to prevent them being made available to the public.