It was reported last week that a German regional court has ordered RapidShare to install an automatic filter to stop users uploading copyright-infringing files. Now the company says that although it is appealing the ruling, even the judgment as its stands doesn’t make a filter mandatory.
The confusion appears to have come about because the regional court in Hamburg (roughly equivalent to the senior court in a US state) issued the ruling last week but did not provide the full written verdict until today.
That document hasn’t yet been published, but copies have gone to the two sides in the case. RapidShare claims that in the written verdict, the court has “explicitly recognized that RapidShare’s business model is legal”, which contrasts with comments made by judges from lower courts earlier in the legal process.
At this stage it appears the courts accept there is nothing fundamentally illegal about RapidShare offering and making money from a filesharing service that could be used to share infringing files. The legal questions are instead about what action RapidShare is required to take to prevent those files being shared.
Initial reports of the verdict last week said that RapidShare was told to stop any such files ever being uploaded to its site, which led to reports that the only way to comply would be through an automated filter as manually reviewing each attempted upload would be physically impossible.
However, RapidShare reports that the court verdict says that it is only legally responsible in cases where a link to the file on its servers has been published. The company says it already does so by keeping an eye on sites where such links are commonly posted and then blocking files once it becomes aware of a link to a file that infringes copyright.
According to RapidShare, it does this voluntarily and disputes the ruling that it can be legally forced to act in this way. It has therefore decided to take the case to Germany’s highest court in the hope of clarifying this particular aspect of the case, effectively seeking a ruling that it bears no responsibility for content on its servers.