A few weeks back, there were reports floating around claiming that a high regional court in Germany had ruled against Rapidshare, which some thought went against earlier rulings that had found the company’s model legal in both Europe and the US. Considering that Rapidshare is quite frequently compared to Megaupload (despite some significant differences), these cases are pretty important. When I saw that announcement a couple weeks ago, I also heard from some people in Germany who said to wait until the full ruling was out before assuming that the news making the rounds — which was being pushed by the entertainment industry — was accurate. Indeed, now that the details have come out, the ruling is much more mixed, and is mostly a victory for Rapidshare. It effectively says that Rapidshare’s business is legal — and this comes from a German court that has a history of suggesting that service providers need to be copyright cops.
In this case, that is the one questionable part of the ruling. While the court does not say that Rapidshare needs to police uploads, it does say that the company needs to police external links to the site and then disable the files if they are obviously infringing. This doesn’t make much sense if you think about it. It seems odd that Rapidshare should be forced to monitor what third party users on fourth party sites are doing, and then take action based on that. But, it appears the company may appeal that part. And, for the time being, a ruling that acting as a hosting provider/cyberlocker is legal is an important and useful ruling, in a court not known for handling copyright cases very well.