RapidShare Encourages Customers to Comply With Copyright Law
File hosting service RapidShare is playing the role of good corporate citizen with the release of a four-page "Responsible Practices for Cloud Storage Services" document.

The practices certainly appear to be respectful of copyright. RapidShare calls for file hosting services not just to qualify for the safe harbor under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act but "to go above and beyond safe harbor practices" in order to protect copyright holders. These steps include looking for repeated efforts to upload content the service had previously deleted and not paying uploaders based on download volume unless they can ensure no illegality is taking place.

The RIAA isn't totally won over, however. "Unfortunately the new measures announced fall short of the goal to meaningfully and effectively reduce the massive amount of copyright theft occurring on its service," the organization said in a statement.

The RIAA's main beef is about RapidShare's business model. Some file hosting services keep uploaded content in a silo and accessible only by the uploader - and the uploader's friends, in the case of services like Dropbox. But Rapidshare allows users to freely share uploaded content with anonymous users. "In fact," the RIAA continues, "in 2011 alone, we notified RapidShare of nearly 200,000 instances where copyrighted music was being freely and illegally distributed through their service, many of which were repeat notifications for the same recordings."

Rapidshare admits it hosts infringing content, although it claims to remove them when notices are filed. "We've received plenty of takedown notices and almost all of them were justified," RapidShare's Raimer told Ars. "There are bad takedown notices that turn out to be wrong, but this is the exception and not the rule."

If Rapidshare is on firm legal ground, why do more than the law requires? The most obvious guess is Rapidshare is worried about lawsuits and is attempting to get the file hosting industry to self-regulate itself. If these services can become good actors, the thinking goes, legislators and lawyers will avert their attention to other matters.

That strategy would seem far more plausible if the genie weren't already out of the bottle. But file hosting sites have long been targets of content owners - especially Hollywood movie studios with friends in Washington D.C. The business model isn't necessarily on firm ground. Just last month, a German court told RapidShare to filter out uploads of music rights organization GEMA and two book publishers. And, of course, Megaupload was seized back in January - that scared straight a host of file sharing services.

Megaupload could be the litmus test that determines the fate of RapidShare other services, and that should make for an interesting and dramatic trial. As CNET notes http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57416538-93/rapidshare-mediafire-distance-themselves-from-megaupload/, Megaupload attorneys include technology attorney Ira Rothkin, William Burck (former special counsel to President George W. Bush) and Andrew Schapiro (attorney who represented YouTube against Viacom). ( RapidShare document at Scribd.com)

Hulu Hits 2 Million Subscribers
Hulu now has 2 million subscribers, CEO Jason Kilar said at the Ad Age Digital Conference. The online television and movie service had 1 million last summer and hit 1.5 million in January. Hulu Plus, the premium version of the service, costs $7.99 per month, allows access on a variety of devices and has a larger catalog than the free service. The free, ad-supported service streams only on PCs.

With 2 million paying subscribers, Hulu has a 6.4% conversion rate. The site had 31.1 million U.S. unique visitors in March, according to comScore. Hulu ranked second only to Google sites in videos streamed (1.01 billion to Google's 15.7 billion) and minutes per view (275.2 to Google's 424.6).

Digital subscriptions are definitely a work in progress. Hulu should be pleased with its 2 million subscribers considering a limited catalog of TV shows and movies can be accessed on PCs by watching commercials that are less frequent than those on broadcast TV. The company shouldn't be content with 2 million subscribers, but it should realize digital subscriptions will take time. The New York Times Company is having a similar experience. The Times (and the International Herald Tribune) had 454,000 digital subscriptions as of March 18, according to an earnings report released Thursday, an improvement of 16% from the end of the previous quarter. That's a decent increase but not enough to offset the 10.3% decline in digital advertising revenue that was primary due to lower revenue at About.com. ( GigaOm)

Pirate Party Grows In Germany
The Pirate Party, the political party related to the Pirate Bay peer-to-peer site, is increasingly strong in Germany but is opposed by a significant number of intellectuals in the country, according to German publication Spiegel.

It seems artists aren't too supportive of the party's calls to deregulate all digital content. "Political? No, politically there's nothing there," writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger told Spiegel. "And certainly nothing revolutionary. It's actually surprisingly bourgeois. Like our grandparents, who were happy when they could get something for free. I wonder why they don't go to the bakery and say that they'd rather not pay. Why does it have to be against us, the authors?"

But the Pirate Party has quickly grown to become significant players in German politics. People are fed up with politics in Germany just as they are in the U.S., and the party represents the desire to upend the political establishment. As the Guardian wrote earlier this month, the party has won between 7% and 10% of votes in some regions. If the party gets 5% of the vote in 2013 it will quality for seats in Germany's parliament. A poll taken two weeks ago showed the Pirate Party to be Germany's third-strongest party after surpassing Germany's Green Party.

The party's rise has come during a time of legal setbacks for companies in tune with its vision of digital freedom. On Friday a German court ruled YouTube must install filters to prevent users from uploading the music videos whose rights are controlled by GEMA, which represents about 60,000 writers and musicians. Last month, a German court ruled that Swiss company RapidShare is legal but ordered the site to monitor uploads to prevent the content of GEMA and book publishers De Gruyter and Campus are uploaded to its servers. ( Spiegel Online)