As business models go, the file-sharing business model has proven to be precarious at best in the last few months. With MegaUpload being shut down in January and other file-sharing services under heavy fire from governments and copyright advocacy groups around the world, the ruling by a higher regional court in Germany that orders RapidShare to filter user uploads has many questioning whether the industry can survive.
The glimmer of hope comes in the contradictions. The highest court in the EU banned anti-piracy filters just last month because it would violate user privacy and hinder freedom of information. This precedes upcoming legislation in America that also argues in both directions of the copyright vs privacy problem.
You can’t have it both ways.
“Internet sites can no longer avoid their responsibilities, and profit from copyright infringing uploads of anonymous users,” said Alexander Skipis, chief executive of the German Booksellers Association in response to the German court ruling.
The arguments against the ruling aren’t just coming from file-sharing sites. Privacy watchdogs and legislators are acutely aware of what could happen if the ruling sticks. There is a trust that is associated with file-sharing services that goes beyond piracy. Most of the content that is uploaded is not illegal and can be very personal in nature, making the concept of filtering the content a hard pill to swallow.
Is there a way to reduce piracy without infringing on individual privacy?