Rapidshare has just published a press release to clarify its position with regards to a recent German court decision decision that essentially mandated to "proactively check content before publishing it." Rapidshare's response: "This is currently technically and legally impossible." Rapidshare COO Bobby Chang continued: "There's not going to be any control of uploads."

This statement came a little bit as a surprise to me, because I had asked the company last week to explain how it is going to respond to the court decision and got a much more measured response. It read:

"The Rapidshare AG is currently analyzing the decision and working on a solution that will on the one hand do justice to the instructions of the court and on the other hand protect the privacy of its users." (emphasis added)

These instructions of the court were pretty clear: Rapidshare has to become active against the infringement of a copyrighted work once it becomes aware / gets notified of such infringement. This does not just include erasing the work from its servers, but taking reasonable steps to make sure that it doesn't get uploaded again.

Now how could such reasonable steps look like? Simply installing keyword- or hash-based filters - something Rapidshare already has in place - wasn't enough for the Hamburg-based court. Instead, it mandated to identify users that have uploaded the work in question in the past and monitor their uploads before publishing them.

That sounds tough, given the fact that Rapidshare allows anonymous uploads and the upload of password-protected archives, doesn't it? Well, the court thought about that as well. Rapidshare could use IP addesses to identify uploaders and monitor any upload from those IP addresses, which of course could mean to also monitor countless uploads from other users that happen to have the same dynamic IP address. Or it could just control everything.

The court also had a interesting idea on how to deal with .rar files: Just unrar them on a designated server, and block the upload of password-protected uploads from suspected infringers.

I'm still not clear how exactly Rapidshare intends do these instructions justice and at the same time not control any uploads, and the company didn't elaborate any further on it. Chang did however dispel the myth that his Swiss-based company doesn't have to adhere by German court decisions, saying:

"Rapidshare operates internationally and does of course have some German users as well. That's why this decision is obviously of importance for us."

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