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Single Tweet Brings Dropbox DMCA Takedown Policy into Spotlight

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Dropbox came under fire over the weekend after a customer using its paid business cloud storage tweeted a screenshot that showed one of his files blocked from being shared due to US copyright law.

Since Darrell Whitelaw tweeted the picture around 10:30 pm on Saturday, it has been retweeted around 3,000 times. The screenshot showed an empty folder with a notice at the top that reads, “Certain files in this folder can’t be shared due to a takedown request in accordance with the DMCA.”

Whitelaw told ZDNet that he didn’t believe there was anything wrong with Dropbox’s actions, but hadn’t seen it before.

According to TechCrunch, the system is not new. Dropbox is a US-based company, and has to comply with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. It has blocked files from being shared before, and has notified users in this manner in compliance with the DMCA.

Earlier this month Dropbox suffered a network outage which disabled users from accessing and synchronizing files temporarily.

While some misinterpreted Whitelaw’s tweet to mean that Dropbox is able to view and block private folders from being accessed under DMCA, the file in question was one that was being shared between users. Its system checks the hash of a shared file against a banned list, blocking it if there’s a match.

Dropbox doesn’t delete the file, but just prevents it from being shared.

Similar to other service providers, Dropbox has a policy wherein it terminates accounts “of users who repeatedly infringe copyright or whose accounts are subject to multiple infringement allegations.”

The situation shows that even users that are paying for an online storage service like Dropbox have to abide by copyright laws, and are subject to DMCA takedown requests.

While many DMCA takedown requests can be legitimate, there have been instances where that isn’t the case. Recently, WordPress.com parent company Automattic joined two users in DMCA abuse lawsuits.

About the Author

Nicole Henderson is the Editor in Chief of the WHIR, where she covers daily news and features online. She has a bachelor of journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto. You can find her on Twitter @NicoleHenderson.

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