Jurisdiction matters

Bruce Schneier has this posting about privacy risks for Cloud software. These are all good points, but there is one that Bruce doesn’t mention. In fact few people are mentioning it which is a shame because it’s one of the biggest risks with using Cloud services: controlling legal authority.

In other words, in what country’s jurisdiction is your Cloud service? Do you know? Shouldn’t you know?

This was brought home recently when Germany-based RapidShare had to divulge its users IP addresses, according to this ARS Technica article:

The popular Germany-based file hosting service RapidShare has allegedly begun handing over user information to record labels looking to pursue illegal file-sharers. The labels appear to be making use of paragraph 101 of German copyright law, which allows content owners to seek a court order to force ISPs to identify users behind specific IP addresses. Though RapidShare does not make IP information public, the company appears to have given the information to at least one label, which took it to an ISP to have the user identified.

The issue came to light after a user claimed that his house was raided by law enforcement thanks to RapidShare, as reported by German-language news outlet Gulli (hat tip). This user had uploaded a copy of Metallica’s new album “Death Magnetic” to his RapidShare account a day before its worldwide release, causing Metallica’s label to work itself into a tizzy and request the user’s personal details (if there’s anything record labels hate, it’s leaks of prerelease albums). It then supposedly asked RapidShare for the user’s IP address, and then asked Deutsche Telekom to identify the user behind the IP before sending law enforcement his way.

What’s really interesting is this comparison to the laws governing US based last.fm and Germany based RapidShare:

There are, however, many differences between Last.fm and RapidShare. For one, if Last.fm were to find itself in the position RapidShare is in with GEMA, it would be able to argue that the Safe Harbor provision in the DMCA protects it from liability as long as it removes infringing content after being presented with a takedown notice. In Germany (and many other countries), there is no equivalent, meaning that RapidShare has little choice but to comply with the rulings. RapidShare’s incredible popularity-Germany-based deep packet inspection (DPI) provider Ipoque recently put out a report saying that RapidShare is responsible for half of all direct download traffic-has only made the issue more sensitive for the record labels and service providers alike.

Jurisdiction matters.

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