RapidShare Found Liable For Copyrighted Material Uploaded to Site

DUESSELDORF, Germany - A German court last week dealt another blow - possibly, a fatal one - to the popular one-click file hoster RapidShare.


On Jan. 23, the Duesseldorf district court ruled RapidShare must block access to works from the GEMA repertoire. The ruling was in response to a suit filed against the site - reportedly operated in Switzerland by its German owner - by GEMA, which is the German equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America.


GEMA won two previous injunctions against RapidShare, but this was the first time the organization won an actual court case.


RapidShare representatives have not responded to the ruling.


RapidShare repeatedly had contended that only its users, and not the site itself, can be held liable for copyright violations. The court disagreed, finding that RapidShare is mostly used to swap copyrighted files - including songs, movies and pictures - which is illegal, and that the company generates substantial profits from those activities.


Moderators at RapidShare traditionally disabled single links following copyright-infringement complaints, but in November 2007, they began disabling all links posted by users suspected of copyright infringement.


In a press release, GEMA quoted the ruling, saying it forces RapidShare to "take measures that might have the risk of making RapidShare's service substantially less attractive or even close it down completely."


The court ruled that RapidShare must take "preventative action" against infringing uploads, which could mean moderators would be required to preview every upload submission for copyrighted material.


According to analysts from TorrentFreak, the case "may have wider implications, particularly in terms of offering file hosting services to users in Germany. Other file-sharing sites may ban German users, and there's also a risk that now that there has been a win in Germany, similar groups to the RIAA/GEMA in other nations may try to get similar rulings."