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A German appeals court recently dismissed a lower court verdict against Switzerland-based one-click host site RapidShare, noting that the company can’t be held responsible for the actions of its users. The Dusseldorf-based court also found that there are no reasonable ways for RapidShare to control file uploads without possibly restricting local fair use laws.
Rapidhare had been sued by a rights holder for distributing copies of movies like An American Crime and Eagle vs. Shark, and a lower court issued a preliminary injunction against the file hoster last summer. That injunction followed similar court decisions against RapidShare in lawsuits waged by music and e-book rights holders. However, the Dusseldorf-based court was not impressed with the arguments in these cases, noting instead that “most people utilize RapidShare for legal use cases.”
The court decision, which was published a few days ago, points out that RapidShare is not operating any type of index or search engine that would make files stored on its service publicly accessible. Instead, it’s the users that decide whether or not to publish a link to files they have uploaded — and the fact that some of them abuse the service is not enough to sanction RapidShare itself.
German law does provide the ability to go after companies that willfully enable infringement, which has some implications for forum owners and file hosters, one of them being that a hoster has to not only take down specific copies of an infringing file, but also try to prevent further copies from being uploaded. However, RapidShare won’t have to try too hard. The Dusseldorf-based court found that it’s easy to circumvent any upload filters and than manual control of all uploads is simply not feasible.
The court also brought up an interesting point: German copyright allows users to make copies of movies and music files for their own use, as well as to share them with a limited number of close acquaintances. Automated filters would make it impossible for users to save a legal backup copy of a movie on RapidShare’s servers.
RapidShare has been fighting with rights holders in courts for years, but the company has also in recent months made some attempts to appease entertainment companies and help the monetize their content. It premiered a movie download service last December, and its CEO recently told rights holders that he wants to help them sell content to RapidShare users.
Related content on GigaOm Pro: The Quest to Monetize File Sharing (subscription required)