A German court has ordered that Rapidshare, a popular file sharing service, has to monitor user uploads for pirated material. This is only one of the very aggressive actions being taken to protect copyrighted material online, but like many of the others critics say that this one infringes on privacy rights. The German court ruling hasn’t been issued in its written form yet and Rapidshare has yet to say whether or not they intend to appeal the ruling, according to reports on Ars Technica.
Rapidshare would be required to block the uploads of 4,000 files that are known to be infringing on copyrights. Currently, these services are required to take down infringing materials, but are not required to monitor that content. It’s routine for large file sharing sites to remove content that is found to be infringing but it is not required for them to actively monitor the content that is uploaded for any acts of copyright infringement.
Rapidshare and services like it have constantly been in the crosshairs of the RIAA and other corporate interest groups that represent the entertainment industry. While the US does not require these services to monitor their content, the German court ruling holds that they do have that responsibility. According to reports, this may be in contradiction to the very strict privacy rules that the EU provides for the protection of its citizens.
Some file sharing services receive literally thousands of uploads every hour. Monitoring these uploads for copyright infringement is a huge task and, if these companies are held liable for incidents when someone does get copyrighted material through, the consequences could be grave for the company.
In related news, the RIAA is planning on monitoring everyone’s traffic in the US, at least on those ISPs that are participating in the program. Users will now have all their traffic checked if they use bit torrent or other P2P technologies, which have numerous legitimate uses in addition to the uses that pirates typically employ them for.
Users who are concerned about their online privacy are increasingly turning to solutions that allow them to hide their activity online. These solutions include VPN services, which allow users to surf in anonymity with their traffic encrypted so that it cannot be intercepted and read by anyone, including ISPs. As governments tighten their grip on the Internet, it remains to be seen whether privacy or corporate interests will prevail.
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