DUESSELDORF, Germany - Links to copyrighted adult content posted in file-sharing forums by some of the most prolific users of one-click hosting site RapidShare have been rendered useless.
While moderators at RapidShare, which reportedly is operated from Switzerland by its German owner, traditionally has disabled single links following copyright-infringement complaints, this apparently is the first time the site has disabled all links posted by users suspected of copyright infringement. As of last week, some users who posted more than 650 links saw their accounts virtually shut down.
By Oct. 31, users of Forumophilia.com, a message board where users post links back to RapidShare leading to downloaded adult content, had received the message "This file has been deleted. Reason: This file is forbidden to be shared! Complaints received." when trying to open a link.
A poster known as "kuifje," who has posted more than 650 links, saw almost all of the links disabled. Other posters, some of whom also had posted hundreds of links, met the same fate.
"That may be due to a verdict of the Court of Appeals in Cologne, with which RapidShare ... was put out of liability in cases where they don't know where the URLs are being distributed," German attorney Daniel Koetz told AVN Online. "Once they know, they are obliged to scan the forums by themselves. ... They might have new scanning methods and are obliging the Cologne verdict."
Koetz sued RapidShare on behalf of a German photographer with the backing of 10 American photographers and filmmakers, while German-based music rights organization GEMA filed separate suits against RapidShare.com and RapidShare.de. The decisions held RapidShare liable for illegal and allegedly stolen material on its sites, despite the company's contention that it was not responsible because it did not post the material but simply hosted it.
RapidShare is owned by Christian Schmid of Germany. The site, by many accounts, is considered one of the largest resources for stolen motion-picture files, software, music, games and adult photos and videos.
A note on the site's page, however, warns users that "illegal files will be removed immediately after notice. Furthermore, we will add them to our file filter, so they can't be uploaded again."
Emails seeking comment from RapidShare officials went unanswered.
As link posters at Forumophilia.com became aware of the situation last week, most expressed anger, while some were willing to look at the other side of the coin.
"Let's face facts - everything the estimed (sic) kuifje has uploaded belongs to someone else," a user named "cuckold" wrote. "And those people who do own it shot the porn with the expectation of being paid for their work. Do you want to work for free? Neither do I or the guys who shot all this hot porn.
"Let's be real about the porn industry wanting to protect their livelihood and try to see both side[s] of it. Why would anyone continue to make all this great porn if they didn't get any money for it?"
Koetz said the removal of the links is a bit of a victory for the adult industry, but it might not be a long-lived one.
"I'm afraid the infringers will move on to other shores," he said.