Are We All Pirates? (Part 2)

7/24/2012 11:39:06 AM

Legal action against everyone

Kim Schmitz, the FBI and the music industry — all of this appear to be miles apart to the unconcerned Megaupload user. But are they really safe? File-sharers can be identified easily, with the help of tracking tools that copyright holders can use to monitor hosting sites and record the users' IP address. Additionally, the host of copyright-infringed content sharing out his supplies can be pinpointed even more easily, and perhaps even heavier penalised. And what’s stopping everyone from sending in a wave of cease-and-desist letters?

The futility and expense of it, that's what. A wave of court orders may be big, but it's not an effective route. There may be simply too many to charge, and too many court cases to fight, to truly eradicate every single infringed user that amount to the millions. And it may not be as easy as it seems for users of file hosting sites like Megaupload. A person who clicks on a link and downloads a file anonymously does not leave any traceable tracks. It's really the database of Megaupload which could be the source of for the IPs. "However there is no evidence that a user may be prosecuted in such a way", says Rebecca Jeschke from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the data protection organisation.

Description: Rebecca Jeschke from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Rebecca Jeschke from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

While anonymous users are currently on the safer side, premium users are the ones facing likely trouble; they had registered their credentials and paid using credit cards, thus easily identifiable over Megaupload’s accounting system. However, this premium access is not adequate enough a reason to start charging someone of copyright infringement, as file-hosting in itself is legal. Many calls have been made to demand the end of liability privilege for file-hosts. This means that the providers are only responsible for the contents that are known to them. However, a content check is not mandatory at the moment.

Another argument that arose is the fact that providers who are aware of the pirated content, and even rewards this to some extent, "some extent/must-be made accountable for this. This basically requires service providers to check every single content on their hosts, which RapidShare does not believe in. "Even if a checking of all uploaded files would technically be feasible, it would mean a massive invasion of the private sphere", says Daniel Raimer, the company spokesperson. This discussion would be settled in late summer, when the Federal Supreme Court renders a judgment with respect to the liability issue. If the Court confirms the liability of the file-hosters, it could have wide-ranging consequences, even for Cloud providers like Apple, Amazon, Google or Microsoft, as surmised by Prof. Thomas Hoeren, a legal science expert for IT-rights, in an interview. As of yet the end of the Cloud service in the present form cannot be ruled out.

“One illegal copy cannot turn into a legal one under any circumstances". Marion Janke, attorney at law for Media & Copyrights

Description: Marion Janke, attorney at law for Media & Copyrights
Marion Janke, attorney at law for Media & Copyrights

The users, who used the Megaupload as online memory for their legal data, are facing an entirely different problem at the present. Their data is not accessible anymore and had presumably been completely deleted by the end of February. Megaupload is currently incapable of paying the two hosting companies of their servers anymore, which are Cogent Communications Group Carpathia hosting: Cogent had taken a 23% nosedive in stocks after Megaupload's closing. They themselves cannot secure the uploaded data since they do not have access to server contents. A temporary website called had been set up for users to retrieve their legally-uploaded content.

Using firesharing and filehosting?

Description: Firesharing


Both are legal in principle, of course, but fundamentally the following is also applicable: downloading of contents is prohibited if the offered copy is transparently illegal. These are films, games, software or music that are being commercially available. A user cannot wriggle out of this with claims of ignorance. Perhaps the biggest offence is the redistribution of files considered protected by copyright laws -- users who uploaded the content is also liable of charges even if he had not intended it to be shared among other. This may result in a more expensive lawsuit, while downloaders are less likely to face something more than a fine. The subject on freeware or publically available content is a little more on the grey area, usually pertaining first to the terms of usage set by the creators or right-holders.

Viewing movie and TV streams?

The same principals apply here. Viewing TV and movie sites are only legal if the content is transparently legal. Judges of different countries or regions may interpret the act of viewing itself as illegal and an infringement of copyright, while some contest this decision. But there's no set decree or judgement on this, nor has anyone been sued on this grounds, mostly because in the difficulty on identifying them. Even so, it's highly doubtful that it'll go further than a cease and desist letter.

Downloading youtube videos?

Description: You Tube

You Tube

You may view videos on YouTube, surely, but nothing more, according to the terms set by the video portal. According to them, downloading YouTube videos is prohibitied, though you may not be too worried. Google has discontinued action against the many stream downloading tools, and have no way to discover who exactly has viewed and permanently copied the videos. However, you should only download it for yourself and not distribute them. Adding background music using ripped MP3s is also forbidden. While you won't be facing legal action for this, your video may be deleted and your account be revoked.

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