Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Dubious uses of anonymous file hosting

I saw that a well known ‘anonymous’ file sharing site won on appeal their right to continue ‘unknowingly’ hosting copyrighted movies, music, games etc, this week. A great victory against ‘the evil megacorps’ that already have too much money blah blah.

Except of course, that the site in question is a huge company, one of the biggest online users of bandwidth, and likely all of it’s ‘sticking it to the man’ directors are millionaires. Undermining the system from within?

I have no problem with people using online dropboxes. Quite a few contractors in my industry use them to transfer finished art assets to customers, for example. And every time someone, fairly reasonably points out that 99.99999% of rapidshare/megaupload etc’s content is copyrighted, they always wave their arms at the odd graphic designer who uses their site for legit reasons.

I think the solution is simple. Continue for it to be legal to host file drop-boxes, with the normal DMCA takedown procedure, but make it non anonymous. Ensure you need to buy a one-off account, for maybe just $1, with a proper bank account. A traceable one, basically. One that, if *horror of horrors* someone uploaded a copyrighetd movie/game, they could easily be traced by their bank details, and prosecuted for damages.

I’m sure people will say ‘what about whistleblowers’, and yay, what a great point. By all means, allow anonymous uploads. Cap it at 10MB a day. 1 MB is a comrpessed copy of War & peace. Exactly how many classified documents do you need to upload in a day? You can still leak those emails to the press, you just can’t upload  Spiderman3_HD1280_RiPpEdByMe_3434.rar.

There is absolutely no justification to allow unlimited uploads to a server you run in the multi-gigabyte range from someone anonymous. Especially in the form of password-protected rar files. Try going along to one of those self-storage places and saying

“I want to store 4 lorryloads of stuff in your warehouse, and I want the only key. By the way, yes I look a lot like the guy who stored stuff here every day for the last 2 weeks, and every single time it turned out to be stolen goods, but clearly it won’t be this time, honest guv!”

At some point, hopefully, the era of ‘anonymous file hosting’ will be put to rest by lawyers. I doubt it though. Lawyers are good at earning themselves money, not seeing the right thing done. I won’t shed a tear if one of those companies gets a huge business-destroying fine though.

8 thoughts on Dubious uses of anonymous file hosting

  1. I have a feeling that these websites would die off if they were required to implement your proposal, not that some people wouldn’t like that, just that I doubt that legitimate users of these sites would keep even one of them up-and-running.

  2. As long as there is a market, there will be a company going for it. Any law would need to go into technicalities (“only up to 10 MB”), and you’d run into tons of issues: Wouldn’t flash games be an issue? What about photo sites? Or splitting up the 4 GB movie into small partial rar files (which was very common when bandwith was low and downloads tended to disconnect), and (possibly) disguising those as pictures? And then you still got the torrents left, and prosecuting someone for hosting a torrent means that google could be sued for indexing and caching copyright infringements. And last but not least: The warez-community started on IRC with bots and scripts for P2P file-transfers, it can always move back there.

    I am not saying rapidshare is doing something good. I am saying that it is impossible to stop those companies, and if you did, others would just take their place.

  3. i think you’re over-examining this, the point is that they were operating within the law and so they were proven innocent. I agree that changing their policy could and would reduce how much their services are used for piracy, but it’s the law that would need to change and a law against free file hosting is ludicrous

  4. While piracy sucks for the most part, anonymous file hosting and sharing is the only source of certain legally gray things that can’t be bought. So it’s mostly on personal grounds that I disagree with this.

    For example: “abandonware” (that actually has been abandoned and isn’t just old) that you literally can’t buy from anywhere because the company is out of business and/or no one knows who has the rights anymore and/or licensing issues. is great, but they still have huge holes in their catalog, and good luck persuading Disney to let Capcom put their classic Disney licensed games on the Virtual Console.

    Old software you had a legitimate copy of and neglected to make a backup, and ARGH the original copy has succumbed to bit rot. (happened to a ton of my old DOS games that weren’t on CD)

    Out of print books that aren’t available through second-hand sources or legit digital distribution.

    Mods and homebrew that contain trademarked characters. Maybe the creators should have been more mindful of trademarked properties, but some of the best Mario games are ones Nintendo had nothing to do with.

    Yeah, there’s abuses of the system. Installing a pirated copy of Black Ops or GSB is pretty indefensible, especially when you take things like online sales into consideration: there’s no consumer software that’s truly expensive anymore. But as a source of stuff I would buy if I could but can’t (or in a few cases, working copies of things I do legitimately own), I’d rather see filesharing kept the way it is.

  5. I don’t think “the right thing” to do is to force people to make a payment or otherwise reveal their identity prior to being allowed to distribute content online. Like your “odd graphic designer”, I use services like Dropbox only for legitimate purposes and am glad I can register with them without going through the hassle of positively establishing my identity. I should not have to suffer due to other people’s misuse of technology and abuse of anonymity.

    Anonymity does not preclude copyright holders from taking down infringing content, nor does it prevent them from obtaining relevant ISP records in cases where lawsuits are actually worthwhile. I know copyright holders would rather copyright infringement problems resolve themselves as if by magic, but I’d much rather keep my anonymity.

  6. “I should not have to suffer due to other people’s misuse of technology and abuse of anonymity.”

    I agree. Unfortunately, like anyone selling movies, music, games or software, I do…

  7. I am amazed that anyone has the bandwidth and time to upload movies to file sharing sites. Also, we aren’t terribly anonymous to begin with – it’s not like ISPs are overly concerned with our privacy.

    I pay for my digital content (including GSB) – songs from itunes and games from, mostly, though I now own an ebook reader and will start buying epub files shortly.

    My pet peeve is the content that I want that is not available from a legal, digital source. Some examples include the Horatio Hornblower novels, TSR Dungeons and Dragons PDFs (they were pulled by Hasbro), and other books I would like to buy in electronic form, but can’t find a way too.

    It never ceases to amaze me that executives and legislators focus on pirates, who are unlikely to become paying customers, often at the expense of people who want to be paying customers.

  8. Complain about the misuse of a system not the system itself. Just because it allows people to upload copyrighted files doesn’t make it wrong. People being alive allows people to murder but the solution isn’t to kill everyone, it’s to implement laws that punish murderers. I agree illegal file sharing is a bad thing but try and think of a more eloquent solution that losing all important anonymity.

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