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The Dropbox DMCA Controversy Explained

The Dropbox DMCA Controversy Explained

Dropbox LogoOn Saturday, Darrel Whitelaw, a designer and Dropbox user sent out a tweet that quickly caught fire on the Internet.

According to Whitelaw’s Tweet, Dropbox, which is a popular cloud storage and synchronization service, had removed content from a “personal folder” due to a DMCA request. He claimed that it raised issues about whether or not content uploaded to Dropbox was private or not.

However, that turned out to be exactly be what happened. Dropbox can be used both for private storage and for sharing files with others. Whitelaw had apparently shared a link on his dropbox to a folder that contained a copyrighted video. When he shared the link, Dropbox detected that some of the content was a match to another file that had received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice and shuttered the link instantly, posting the DMCA warning.

This automated content matching is called hashing and it’s something that Dropbox has done for years. Historically though, it’s been used for de-duplication, meaning that if you and another person try to upload the same file, Dropbox only keeps one copy to save on storage costs.

But as the number of DMCA notices Dropbox received began to rise, it used the hashing system to proactively block links to infringing material. Once a file has become the subject of a DMCA notice, any future attempts to share it publicly are shut down instantly, preventing the rightsholders from having to file a second notice and also eliminating questions about whether Dropbox was complying with the DMCA, questions contributed to Megaupload’s fate.

So what exactly is Dropbox doing and is it unethical? The answer is no and, if anything, it’s a good role model for other cloud services to follow.Continue Reading