Google has finally confirmed it is to launch an online storage service named Drive. But with the company confirming users will be able to make files accessible by others, does it have the answer to potential piracy issues?
In practice, Google Drive is simply a rebranding and expansion of the existing Google Docs. Now, rather than just allowing users to upload document files, the service can host any form of file, including video. There’ll be a 5GB limit on free storage, with higher limits available for monthly fees, up to a terabyte for $49.99.
Where piracy comes into play is that users can give other people access to the files on their Google Drive. In fact there may even be developer plug-ins to, for example, allow somebody to upload a video and then get somebody else to edit it online. That certainly suggests its likely users will be able to upload a copyrighted song or video and make it available to others, albeit with a lack of anonymity.
There is of course a big difference between the letter of the law and its practical application. To date most online storage and sharing sites have only faced serious legal problems when they not only fail to discourage sharing of copyrighted files but actively encourage it, for example by paying bonuses for popular files. Google won’t be falling into that category.
The lack of bonuses may deter some pirates simply because it won’t be financially viable to pay for legal content and then earn money by sharing it through online storage sites. Using Google Drive to make cash from piracy will likely at the very least be a convoluted process.
Still, given the problems its faced with YouTube, it does seem Google will have to make its anti-piracy measures more active than simply waiting for a complaint about a copyrighted file being made available.
One suggestion, put forward by Google+ user Nicolas Charbonnier, is that Google may actively analyse uploaded files to see if they match known copyrighted files, and then disable sharing of such content. That would only be a partial solution, and would also mean that encrypted files would have to be blocked from the service.
Whatever it does, Google will need to take a hardline on Google Drive piracy. Fairly or not, a company of its size and standing can’t take the risk of its services being described as a haven for piracy.