File-hosting firms 'responsible for pirated content', German court rules

File-hosting firms 'responsible for pirated content', German court rules

Summary: Germany's top court has ruled that file-hosting service Rapidshare must strengthen its anti-piracy measures after a pirated copy of the Atari title Alone in the Dark was found on its servers

TOPICS: Legal, Piracy

Germany's federal court of law, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), has decided that online file-hosting services are at least partly responsible for the contents of the files on their servers.

The legal wrangling started when Rapidshare deleted a file containing a pirated copy of the Atari game Alone in the Dark after the game company notified it of the copyright breach. Atari Europe decided to take the matter further, and went on to sue Rapidshare in order to force it to improve its anti-piracy measures. 

The BGH has now overturned an earlier decision by the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht, OLG) in Düsseldorf which had found in Rapidshare's favour, after the company argued that it was impossible to check the contents of every file on its servers.

While its lawyers told the BGH that the company only offers file storing and transfer services, the argument failed to convince judge Wolfgang Kirchhoff: "The company is called Rapidshare and not Rapidstore," he said.

In its decision last week (Urt. v. 12.07.2012 - I ZR 18/11) the BGH ruled that file hosting in general is an accepted business model with perfectly legal use cases. However, it added, when a service provider is notified that a copyright violation has taken place, it must ensure by technical means that no further uploads of this kind happen.

Rapidshare must also browse its entire file collection to detect and delete pirated content, the court said.  Should the service provider not carry out these measures, it will be liable for damages.

The BGH did leave Rapidshare some breathing room, however, by including a clause that anti-piracy measures must be within reasonable limits. What constitues "reasonable limits" is now up to the OLG Düsseldorf to decide, after the BGH handed the case back to the local court.

Topics: Legal, Piracy

Jakob Jung

About Jakob Jung

Jakob Jung holds a PhD. in history and American Studies. He has been writing for German IT publications for over twelve years for publications including CRN, InformationWeek, ZDNet, Heise, ECMGuide, Database Developer, Mobile Developer and Network Computing. His experience of being historian has been surprisingly good preparation for an IT career as nothing becomes obsolete as fast as the latest gadgets.

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  • Tech companies should stop doing business in Germany

    The government there is hostile.
  • I found a copy! Go here!

    I call this the 'Malware propagation algorithm'. Let's force all file-sharing to occur on servers in remote third-world hell holes where laws are few and judges are cheap. Then let's act surprised when 13-year-olds around the world load up their family PCs with trojans and worse.

    Sorry, I have trouble believing that serious money is lost to piracy of this sort.
    Robert Hahn
  • Just another set of lawyers getting rich

    This will go to court again in many forms before all is said and done, and many more lawyers will be getting rich from it. Meanwhile, technology will continue to advance and the court decisions will all be meaningless.

    The net effect to the filehosters will be that all uploaded materials will be salted and passworded to the point where no file recognition programs are useful. Front-ends are already appearing to make the process automatic for the end users, and those tools will grow even more sophisticated. Forums and directories will proliferate, offering auto reload and redirect services. The more that the mediazis clamp down, the more innovative the solutions will become to defeat them.

    The answer is to change the business model and take advantage of technology, but the media cartels cannot or will not loosen their stranglehold. It's up to the citizens to do it.

    And the lawyers just keep getting richer ...
    terry flores
  • A good decision

    This is a good decision. These file-hosting sites can't be allowed to turn a blind eye to piracy, any more than bankers can be allowed to turn a blind eye to tax evasion. The sites could easily log all activity, and use data mining algorithms to identify suspicious activity. It would just lower their (probably ad-driven) profits a bit, like identifying tax evasion and other criminal activity lowers profits for banks.

    In addition to requiring some level of responsibility from those who operate businesses of all kinds, we really need more international co-ordination, so that file-sharing sites and other internet-based businesses in rogue countries without proper law enforcement can, like banks in tax havens, be barred from operating in responsible countries.