German Court Rules That File Hosting Websites Are Responsible For Pirated Content

Posted Jul 16, 2012

The German federal court of law, known as the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), has made a ruling that decided file-hosting websites are at least partially responsible for the content that is hosted on their servers even though their users put it there. When Rapidshare started to delete a file that contained a pirated copy of Atari’s game “Alone in the Dark.” Atari notified Rapidshare about the copyright breach, but Atari Europe decided to sue Rapidshare in order to force them to improve anti-piracy measures.

As a result, the BGH has overturned an earlier decision from the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht, OLG) in Düsseldorf, which was in Rapidshare’s favor. Rapidshare won a ruling after arguing that it was impossible to check the contents of every file on their server.

Rapidshare’s lawyers told the BGH that their company only offers file storing and transfer services, but judge Wolfgang Kirchhoff was quoted as saying “The company is called Rapidshare and not Rapidstore.”

The BGH’s decision last week (Urt. v. 12.07.2012 – I ZR 18/11) has ruled that hosting files in general is an accepted business model with legal use cases, but added that when a service provider is notified of a copyright violation, they must ensure by technical means that no further uploads of that kind will happen. Rapidshare is also expected to browse their entire file collection to detect and delete pirated content. If they do not comply, they will be liable for damages.

The BGH said that anti-piracy measures must be done within reasonable limits. The “reasonable limits” will be decided by OLG Düsseldorf since the BGH handed the case back to the local courts.