RapidShare Slows Download Speeds To Drive Away Pirates

During the last week, users who rely on RapidShare's free service have been complaining of reduced download speeds. Several theories have been circulating, mainly focusing on the file-hoster trying to drive users to take up premium accounts. But according to RapidShare the reason is simple - to drive pirates away from their service. Fast download speeds are still available for free, but they come at a different kind of cost.

During the wake of the Megaupload raids in January, TorrentFreak continuously monitored the cyberlocker world. We watched file-hosters panic and we watched bewildered users of their services try to find alternatives.

The fallout was fascinating to watch. Some hosters eventually closed down and some changed their policies, but it soon became clear that immediately usable capacity had become much more rare, at least on terms acceptable to users.

Interestingly – and despite the glaring omission of a cash rewards program – around warez blogs and release sites we saw an increased interest in RapidShare. Site users asked again and again for uploaders to put material up on the Swiss-based file-hoster.

Then a little over a week ago reports started coming in that users of RapidShare’s free service had experienced dramatic speed drops down to around 30/kbs. Speculation was rife that the company was exploiting the Megaupload closure fallout to drive users to their premium, non-limited products. So we asked RapidShare, and this was their fascinating response.

“On January 19th Megaupload was shut down by the FBI. Shortly thereafter, several other file hosters curbed their services or entirely stopped their operations,” the company told TorrentFreak.

“RapidShare has been faced with a severe increase in free user traffic and unfortunately also in the amount of abuse of our service ever since, suggesting that quite a few copyright infringers have chosen RapidShare as their new hoster of choice for their illegal activities,” the company explained.

“We have thus decided to take a painful yet effective step: to reduce the download speed for free users. We are confident that this will make RapidShare very unpopular amongst pirates and thus drive the abusive traffic away.”

RapidShare says that there is a direct link between free users of file-hosting services and copyright infringement. Those who like to pirate prefer not to pay, the company believes, not least because they want to avoid connecting their personal payment details to a copyright-infringing cyberlocker account.

Now, there will be those who say that however RapidShare dress it up, the company will be aware that the restrictions will drive users to their premium services to get better speeds. But interestingly RapidShare is now offering ways for users to get faster download speeds without paying a dime – providing those uploading the original files they’re trying to access do some work.

“We knew that through the action taken we would even affect some RapidPro customers, especially those who offer their own files via websites or blogs and heavily depend on a possibility for free users to download their files. Therefore, we have decided to offer those customers a kind of deregulation that allows free users to download their files with the fastest possible speed again,” the company says.

What this means is that uploaders of content will have to provide RapidShare with details on the nature of their account including what type of files they’re sharing, the name of the sites and blogs where the download links are getting posted, and the uploader’s email address and telephone number.

RapidShare adds that by signing up to the scheme, uploaders give the company the right to check their files and websites for illegal activities.

In recent months RapidShare has made substantial efforts to demonstrate it is a responsible file-hoster that takes the law seriously, but this action is perhaps the strongest indication yet that the company wants to disassociate itself from infringing content and a Megaupload-style fate.

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