A higher regional court in Hamburg, Germany has reportedly ordered file-sharing service RapidShare to proactively filter pirated content from its site. The decision echoes those of a number of lower courts, which ruled that the site had not done enough to prevent piracy taking place on its servers. The ruling comes after January's MegaUpload debacle, which saw the popular file-sharing service shut down, along with others of that ilk. However, RapidShare's business model is dramatically different to that of MegaUpload, which offered a financial reward to uploaders of popular files.
According to initial reports (a written account of the court's ruling has yet to be released) the site will have to monitor its users files for copyright infringement before they are made available for download on the site. As it would be near-impossible to undertake such a feat manually, it's likely that RapidShare will have to develop a software-based solution to filter content. The content industry has long wanted such a pre-vetting policy to be standard across the internet, forcing sites, rather than copyright owners, to take responsibility for pirated material. At present, video-sharing sites like YouTube merely give copyright owners tools to search for and notify the site of infringing material.
TorrentFreak is reporting that the ruling goes against that of the European Court of Justice which last month decreed that Social Networking site Netlog shouldn't be forced to proactively check content as it would violate the privacy of its users. RapidShare lacks Netlog's social elements though, and as such may not be privy to such protection. The site may yet appeal this latest decision however, and the company has recently made changes to try to prevent piracy taking place on its servers.
Just last month the company limited the speed of unverified downloads to 30Kbps, forcing uploaders that want to share their files with non-paying users to give up their anonymity to lift the limits. The site argues that most users that are downloading or uploading pirated material prefer not to pay in order to avoid being linked to illegal activity. It remains to be seen if this action will appease the content industry, but it's undoubtably a step in the right direction for a file-sharing site actively seeking legitimacy.