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RapidShare publishes privacy-bashing anti-piracy manifesto

Fighting for its life in a post-Megaupload world, Swiss cyberlocker Rapidshare has published a guideline for how all such services can avoid becoming the target of Hollywood and the U.S. government. Uncovered by TorrentFreak, the “manifesto” is a strict condemnation of people who try to use the site and others like it for the illegal distribution of copyrighted material, like music, movies and TV shows. 

“Because any customer can misuse these services to engage in wrongful conduct,including copyright infringement, RapidShare, like other operators of such services, hasa strong reputational interest in actively promoting legitimate uses, and discouragingillegitimate uses, balancing the needs for safe, reliable, and private storage and communications with respect for intellectual property and the public interest inreasonable enforcement,” the document reads. “For that purpose, RapidShare publishes this first industrymanifesto of Responsible Practices for Cloud Storage Providers. It welcomes debate and further discussion that balances the legitimate expectations of all stakeholders,including copyright holders, service providers, customers, and the public.”

For starters, says RapidShare, all cloud storage services should automatically comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This includes expeditiously responding to any take-down request, having a designated staff member to handle such requests, and the “strict avoidance” of profiting off of the unlawful distribution of intellectual property. 

To further enhance self-protection, RapidShare says no cyberlocker services should second-guess DMCA take-down requests, and should terminate the accounts of individual users who are accused of copyright infringement — even if such violations have not been proven. 

“Services should terminate account holders or subscribers not merelyupon proof that they are infringers but when sufficient copyright holders have calledtheir conduct into question,” the document reads. “In such cases, services deserve an explanation from the users as to why the suspicions are unfounded.”

Other steps include requiring valid email address for all users (which can then be shared with copyright holders), a default setting that makes uploaded content private (which users would be forced to override if they want to share the files), maintaining a better-trained staff to handle instances of possible copyright infringement, and making the identities of all executives at cyberlocker services known to the public. 

While the guilt-until-proven-innocent stance of the manifesto is sure to cause an uproar among users, the last item on the list is perhaps the most troubling. According to RapidShare, cyberlocker and cloud storage services should alter their privacy polices to allow the company to inspect the contents of any file uploaded to the service by someone repeatedly accused of copyright infringement.

“…privacy policies should establish that service providers retain the right to inspect files of repeat accused infringers or accused violators of the service’s terms of service who, after reasonable notice to them by the service provider, have made no good-faith counter notifications or efforts to justify their conduct as non-infringing or as not violating the service provider’s terms of service,” the document reads.

Considering the current fate of Megaupload, it is not at all surprising that RapidShare — a company that is highly vulnerable to the same types of accusations and crackdowns — would come out so strongly against piracy. In other words: this is a necessary step for these kinds of businesses, whether users like it or not. That said, it is also a troubling one. Hollywood is known for abusing its copyright holder status to take down content that it doesn’t even own. And these types of practices will likely only encourage more abuse by these companies.

No matter how you look at it, this is a big win for copyright maximalists, like the MPAA and RIAA, and it comes at the expense of user privacy.

Regardless, it appears as though the Wild West days of cyberlocker services is quickly coming to an end. The question is: will users continue to employ services that adopt these guidelines, or simply find another way?

Read the full document below:

SF #5383794 v2 Responsible Practices

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