RapidShare quietly opened up the beta version of its digital content store last week, and the Switzerland-based file host site has hinted at plans to empower users to sell any kind of content. Movies could be next, as RapidShare has previously said that it wants to sell titles from major studios like Warner Bros. (s TWX)
The RapidShare Shop currently offers about a dozen video games for sale, and it’s using the company’s own virtual currency — dubbed Rapids — to facilitate transactions. Individual titles go for 99 to 199 Rapids, which translates to about $1.50 to $3.
It’s a small start, but RapidShare apparently has big plans for its digital content business. In an announcement posted on its site last week, RapidShare said it aims to make shopping for digital goods “as fast and simple as possible” with the store, adding that it plans to open it up to publishers in a self-serve fashion:
“Do you create digital content yourself and would like to offer it to other RapidShare customers? No problem, this will soon be possible!”
This isn’t the first time RapidShare has talked about entering the digital content business. The company launched an experimental movie site at the end of 2009 that featured trailers from Warner Bros. A company representative told me at the time that it plans to eventually sell movie downloads once it has a billing system in place. Then-CEO Bobby Chang reportedly reached out to rights holders a few months later, suggesting that RapidShare would be able to send users in search for an illegal download to a legitimate copy instead.
RapidShare hasn’t exactly been embraced by the entertainment industry in the past. Record labels and other content owners have repeatedly sued the company, and courts have had differing opinions about RapidShare’s legal stance. The company offers rights holders tools to remove content, and it discontinued its loyalty program last year, which was seen by rights holders as an encouragement to offer popular unlicensed files for download.
Converting downloaders of free content to paying customers can be challenging, but RapidShare does have the advantage: It already has billing relationships with many of its users. The company isn’t only selling its virtual currency online, but also through more than a thousand gas stations and news stands in Germany.