Under continued pressure to take additional anti-piracy measures, file-hosting site RapidShare introduced a new business strategy last year. The model restricted the ability of all users to engage in third party public distribution, the most popular way of sharing copyrighted material. As a result the company experienced a significant drop in traffic and, according to a spokesman, a significant drop in copyright infringement too.
As one of the planet’s largest file-hosters RapidShare is continually under the watchful eye of the world’s entertainment companies.
After years of lower-level complaints, during 2010 there was a significant development. In a response to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative, the RIAA submitted their list of foreign “notorious markets” and among the usual torrent site suspects were surprise entrants RapidShare.
In the year that followed RapidShare worked hard to combat the allegation that they were some kind of rogue site. The company selected a twin approach – to change the negative perception of the company and show that the file-hoster really cares about copyright protection. The strategy paid off.
“The fact that we were not included in the 2011 list is a result of these educational efforts,” RapidShare attorney Daniel Raimer told TorrentFreak.
But RapidShare weren’t finished. Last year in the wake of the Megaupload raids the company reduced the speeds available to users of their free service after admitting that lots of pirates had jumped on board since the Mega shutdown.
Then in April 2012 RapidShare published a pretty tough and controversial anti-piracy manifesto for fellow file-hosting sites to follow. But still the industry response to RapidShare’s overtures was an underwhelming ‘must do better’.
“RapidShare allows unlimited distribution of copyrighted files among millions of anonymous strangers without taking adequate steps to prevent this illegal activity,” an RIAA spokesman declared.
But by November 2012 even that complaint had been addressed. In a surprise announcement RapidShare declared that it would place strict limits on the amount of outbound public traffic its users can generate. Free users were limited to just 1 gigabyte per day while paid users had a cap of 30 gigabytes during the same period, stopping the unlimited distribution of files amongst “anonymous strangers” overnight.
Now, just a few weeks on from the big decision, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at any effects it may have had.
Embedded below are Alexa stats for RapidShare. Note the large increase in traffic corresponding with the influx of users following the shutdown of Megaupload in January 2012. Note the steady decrease in traffic as the bandwidth throttling measures of RapidShare took their toll. Then notice what happened at the end of November as RapidShare eliminated large-scale third-party sharing.
TorrentFreak asked RapidShare how the company feels about its latest business decision, the results, and how these affects its long-term strategy.
“It is in the nature of things that a traffic limit leads to a reduction of traffic. We can also confirm a reduction of copyright infringements since we launched the new business model,” the company told us.
“Therefore the development is indeed very beneficial for RapidShare and is proof that we have chosen the right approach. For 2013, we’ll further concentrate on product innovations and are looking forward to announcing RapidDrive for Mac OS X soon which will make our cloud storage service even more attractive.”
Presumably another huge plus is that due to RapidShare’s efforts it is unlikely that the company will find itself on a future USTR list or share the kind of fate that ended Megaupload. It could even conceivably become the target of gentle praise from the likes of the RIAA who have rarely had a good word for the site.
The flipside in the short-term is that RapidShare could lose a bit more traffic, at least until it manages it balance the loss of traditional file-sharing traffic with its new image as an antipiracy-motivated Dropbox-style cloud-hosting business.
In the meantime the RIAA and friends have a new anti-piracy bogeyman. That site is called Rapidgator and in stark contrast to the new RapidShare model its slogan is “Share files with your friends. No limits. Easy as ever.”
Rather than type a thousand words, let’s take a look at one last image to show that site’s incredible leap in popularity in just 12 months.
Whichever way you look at it, traffic-wise that’s an incredible performance – any minute now the site will be bigger than RapidShare. Hosted in Russia, Rapidgator will be keen to avoid the attention of authorities, particularly considering the recent anti-piracy crackdown announcement.