At the end of last month, we highlighted a very interesting case where Rapidshare sent personal information to rights holders of an uploader who leaked the latest Metallica album prior to the release date. Gulli has been covering the case for quite a while and has now asked a German lawyer what his thoughts are on this case and what it could mean to other users who use the prominent file hoster.
Shortly after it became known that Rapidshare divulged personal information to rights holder, Rapidshare has since gone to the public to assure users that their IP addresses are safe and that they only track the volume of traffic going through their servers. It’s been argued, though, that Rapidshare hasn’t been entirely clear on the details of why they divulged the IP address outside of the fact that they are following German laws. So, Gulli decided to speak to a German lawyer on what all this means for users who use sites like Rapidshare.
It turns out, according to an expert opinion on IT law, that such a use of the German law in question, Paragraph 101 of the German Copyright Act could put some legal risk to downloaders as well. All of this hinges on if a file hoster resides in Germany. If the transfer starts somewhere in Germany, the German law applies. While Rapidshare does operate outside of German, many of their servers still resides inside the borders of Germany.
As many who have observed the copyright debates would likely note, what the letter of the law and what is actually enforced almost always tends to be two completely different things. Looking back on actual cases against alleged copyright infringers, one can easily note that, 1) An overwhelming majority of users who are actually legally pursued are uploaders, not downloaders and 2) Unless its a huge server bust, those who get prosecuted are almost always uploading newly released or even pre-released mainstream material (when was the last time you heard someone getting sued for uploading a movie made before 1995?) Of course, original leakers aren’t typically charged, usually just those who are the first to upload the work onto a more public internet medium (sometimes private BitTorrent sites like EliteTorrents, but more often public blogs, public BitTorrent sites and, in this case, filehosters for instance)
It’s also worth pointing out that Rapidshare isn’t one of a rare kind of service. As we’ve already once noted, there’s plenty of other file hosters to go around.
(Special thanks to Firebird77 of Gulli.com for the translation. Thanks!)