Judge: RapidShare No Napster

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People might use RapidShare to share copyrighted material, but the company is no Napster. That's according to U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Huff, who declined to issue an injunction against the German-based file-hosting company.

Huff said in a written ruling that unlike Napster -- the original poster child for copyright infringement -- RapidShare did not appear to contribute to users' piracy. The decision was a blow to adult entertainment company Perfect 10, which alleged in a lawsuit filed last November that RapidShare "stores hundreds of thousands of unauthorized copyrighted images on its servers, along with billions of dollars in songs and major full length movies."

RapidShare allows users to upload large files to a site with a unique URL; people can share that address with others who wish to download the files. Perfect 10, which alleged that people used the system to transfer its videos and photos, requested an injunction banning RapidShare from making available images or videos owned by Perfect 10. Perfect 10 also is requesting monetary damages.

But Huff ruled last week that Perfect 10 had not made a strong enough showing that RapidShare encouraged or contributed to copyright infringement to warrant a preliminary injunction, largely because RapidShare isn't easily searchable. "The public cannot enter rapidshare.com and browse through a catalog for desired materials," wrote Huff, a judge in the Southern District Court of California.

"Additionally, a RapidShare user cannot find files located on RapidShare's servers in the same way as a Napster user could find a specific song from a peer's library because RapidShare does not index its files."

Huff also said that RapidShare was capable of non-infringing uses, noting that PC World magazine in Germany had used the service to distribute anti-virus software to readers.

She also criticized Perfect 10 for seeking an injunction when it had not "availed itself of simple, available measures to protect its property," including giving RapidShare enough information to allow it to remove infringing files.

Huff's decision marked the second major pro-RapidShare ruling this month. Several weeks ago, an appellate court in Germany said the company was not responsible for users' copyright infringement.

But the company still faces criticism from content owners. The same week that Huff denied to issue an injunction, the Recording Industry Association of America and lawmakers who belong to the International Anti-Piracy Caucus named RapidShare as one of six "illegal" sites, allegedly used mainly to exchange copyrighted material.

Huff's ruling does not yet dispose of Perfect 10's lawsuit. The company will still have the opportunity to present evidence against RapidShare at trial.

 

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