Did Rapidshare provide the IP address of an uploader to German law enforcement officials, leading to police raiding a flat of a person suspected of uploading the last Metallica album to service? That's the charge that the German online magazine Gulli.com recently made in an article. Rapidshare did not confirm or deny the charges when contacted by P2P Blog.

Here's what supposedly happened: A German Metallica fan uploaded the band's latest album Death Magnetic to Rapidshare one day before its official world-wide release date in September of '08. He also posted links to the album on various forums. Rights holders immediately took notice and tried to get the identity of the uploader. They were eventually successful, which led to a raid of his flat and the confiscation of his PC as well as various CDs in February.

The uploader in question believes that rights holders got his IP address from Rapidshare, because law enforcement officials had unique information about the time of the upload as well as the number of downloads. Others have however mused that rights holders could have gotten the IP address just as likely from a forum. The whole case is even more complicated because it is largely based on infomation published online by the accused, some of which has vanished since.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this and contacted Rapidshare directly. A spokesperson did not confirm or deny the charges. "We can say with certainty that we deleted the data in question from our servers in September of 08", she told me. She also pointed out that the case is based on an incident that happened more than six months ago, making it presumably harder to reconstruct what exactly happened.

However, the spokesperson also admitted that Rapidshare routinely keeps data that makes it possible to identify uploaders. In her own words: "We save when and from which IP address a file is being uploaded."

Rapidshare is based in Switzerland, but the company has a history of engaging with rights holders in other countries. The company has been providing an interface to international rights holders that makes it possible to automate take-down requests for infringing content, and it previously spat with German rights holders in court. When asked by P2P Blog why Rapidshare even cares about lawsuits in other countries, Rapidshare CEO Bobby Chang replied: "Rapidshare operates internationally and does of course have some German users as well."

Germany's new copyright laws gives rights holders the ability to ask ISPs or hosting companies like Rapidshare for the IP address of suspected infringers. These requests still have to be granted by a judge, but anecdotal evidence shows that this process can be fairly quick in case of obvious and substantial infringements. An unreleased album of a hugely successful band like Metallica would certainly fit that pattern. Update: I should probably add that raids are also only done in more substantial cases, like pre-release piracy.

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