About that Dropbox DMCA thing ...

Dropbox (or any other service) complying with DMCA takedowns isn't really a new thing

There's a bit of a to-do this weekend over Dropbox and the DMCA and whether your files are being scanned, even though they're your files. Twitter user Darrell Whitelaw's post is getting shared all over the place, noting that sharing was disabled under some DMCA rules. The folder was private, contained copyrighted material, and a share link to the folder was shared, albeit not publicly.

Here's the thing, though:

Yes, Dropbox can limit sharing access to your files. And, no, this isn't exactly new. (Update: TechCrunch's Greg Kumparak has a great explainer on how all this works.)

We can easily look back to 2012, when our pals at WPCentral were passing around an Xbox 720 document that had leaked out after Microsoft had killed it at the original source, Scribd. Only, they found they couldn't pass it around via Dropbox, because Microsoft got to it there as well.

This has gained traction this week because Dropbox's most recent ToS went into effect March 24.

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We tend to take sharing services for granted — especially when they're as easy to use as Dropbox is. But the moment you attach a folder or file to Dropbox, that folder or file is subject to Dropbox's terms of service. (We're picking on Dropbox here, but this rings true for any service that's not your own.) It all comes down to the terms of service, of course. In the case of Dropbox, they're pretty easy to find and are written in plain English. A few examples:

From the main Terms of Service page:

You're responsible for your conduct, Your Stuff and you must comply with our Acceptable Use Policy. Content in the Services may be protected by others' intellectual property rights. Please don't copy, upload, download or share content unless you have the right to do so.We may review your conduct and content for compliance with these Terms and our Acceptable Use Policy. With that said, we have no obligation to do so. We aren't responsible for the content people post and share via the Services.

Pretty straightforward. Your stuff is your stuff, but Dropbox can "review" your stuff, which makes sense because even though it's still your stuff, and while it doesn't want anything to do with your stuff, really, it's facilitating you being able to sync your stuff over multiple computers, and share it with others. So it does have some skin in the game. That said, Dropbox says it has "no obligation to do so" and that "we aren't responsible for the content people post and share." That's a bit of a hedge, but one of those lawyerly ones that basically says "We don't have to do this, but we're going to because it's better than getting in a big battle with the copyright holders over it."

It's also worth visiting Dropbox's Copyright page, which spells out what we all too often forget:

You do not have the right to share files unless you own the copyright in them or have been given permission by the copyright owner to share them. Purchasing or legally acquiring video, music, ebooks, or software does not give you the right to share that material with third parties over the Internet.

The short version? Owning a copy of something isn't the same as owning the right to share it. There are times that this makes sense. And there are times that this is ridiculous and stupid and completely frustrating. It doesn't matter if you actually pay Dropbox (or any other service) for space — you're still subject to its rules.

The good news is that in Dropbox's case, they're not deleting what's in your folder. They're just limiting your ability to share it. (Although Dropbox does say it could delete information if it wanted to.) Our recommendation? If you've got something you need to share but don't want someone else to know you're sharing it, use something you control. BitTorrent Sync is one popular option. Rolling your own is another. And then there's the good ol' sneakernet.

Phil Nickinson
  • They gotta cover their asses. Posted via Android Central App
  • No, they don't.
    If they lived up to their original promises they wouldn't even know what you have stored in your account. Switch to Spideroak. Their zero knowledge system means your stuff is encrypted on their drives, and only you know the decryption key. They can scan your files. They can't hand them over to the cops.
  • They could indeed hand them over, but they would still be encrypted and Spideroak would [theoretically] not have the keys to decrypt them. So they wouldn't know what they were handing over. But if a court order granted an agency to get copies of all your stuff, they would have to comply. The agency could then seek to compel the file owner to provide the key, or they could start attacking the encryption to try and break it.
  • +1 on this. Bottom line, I ask people "How would you like if the content, program, software,music you created was downloaded without charge"? When people can answer this honestly, piracy (and let's bee real that is what this is) will be slowed down.
  • I was in music production, and when I was asked this question I honestly said, "I'd love for that to happen." To me, it's more exposure, and the little money o would lose out on is worth it to me. From being in the industry, I know that very little is made from album sales, rather, the money is in the artist touring, and in the licensing of music to different labels, commercial venues, movies, advertisements, etc. I would rather have more people sharing my music and growing a fan base than worried about hunting down users and prohibiting the growth of my fan base. (If I had one of course) That's my honest answer. Posted via Telepathy, Android version HAL 9000 "Carne Asada"
  • Isn't there a system in place that tracks, collects and pays royalties? I get that the money in touring/performing and for this to happen, you need corporate sponsors (right)? The folks with the publishing/writing and producing credit are the ones raking in the dough.... If you work is downloaded 500,000 times, you get exposure, but under your example, who gets paid? Unless you are saying that you come out with something, it goes viral, and say "I" use it for some money making venture, then "I" would pay royalties.
  • There is a system, and like all systems, they ain't perfect. The way I see it, and again I speak solely for myself, I wouldn't have 500,000 downloads in iTunes if it weren't the tens of thousands who shared my music and spreading word for me. The half a million downloads it's a byproduct of people sharing music. Can't tell you how many times people actually bought the music after they heard a digital copy they got from a friend who said it was really good and they should listen to it. And that's also what causes many people to actually go spend money at a concert to hear that artist perform. Posted via Telepathy, Android version HAL 9000 "Carne Asada"
  • You miss the point.
    Since all data is encrypted, no one has any reason to request that the data be turned over. You can't claim a DMCA violation against a random bunch of ones and zeros.
  • Actually, you can! And do!! And the previous post was very correct. Even with encrypted files the owner can be compelled to provide the keys. And I do mean COMPELLED. If that does not work- the owner is not known, not 'available', etc-, the files can be decrypted via other means that, while may be time consuming, are not all that hard.
  • Sorry but no. The only time data can be decrypted when modern cryptography has been used is when the keys have been compromised or the algorithms used to generate the keys our do the encryption have been compromised (and The NSA do both).
  • If there is stuff being shared without permission (illegally) through dropbox's app or website or whatever, they can be looked at as a middle man. And by them handing over or taking down any illegally shared content is them covering their asses. They don't want to be the middle man of anything and get tangled in a stupid lawsuit. Posted via Android Central App
  • Three words: Safe Harbor Clause.
  • Ill admit I store clean non cracked Window iso's along with a crap load of virtual machines in google drive (my hard drive) my friends are aware that I have access to these files if if anyone wants one I download it and then give them it to them on a flashdrive or cd. to prevent google from thinking I'm sharing these files.....If you have to share these type of files be smart about it and avoid handing out links that will only set off alarm bells
  • So do u have Windows 7? Lol
  • Yes but you can't have it :D
  • Damn.. :-(
  • so much meh, so little time. This is absolutely nothing new
  • All true and they have the right to do it. Bitorrent sync is great if you know the sources in advance. If not, uploading to one source at a time is just too much.
    If you want to take it to the cloud, distributed solutions like www.noobaa.com don't rely on datacenters to provide cloud.
  • Thanks for the ad, but I'm not interested! Posted via Android Central App
  • F copyright.
  • See, you say that, but obviously have never had had anyone violate yours.
  • +1000
  • + infinity -------------------------------------------
    You really should see the crap I don't post. Sorry if honesty offends you
  • And beyond Posted from my newly Kit Katted Droid Ultra
  • The system is stacked in favour of the multinationals so the original point stands. Posted via Android Central App
  • Intellectual property and copyright is the main reason technology and medicine is decades behind where it could be. IP creates a few SUPER wealthy. Take that away and let a true free market decide how much people make.
  • Without any IP rights, very little would be developed. Even FOSS (like Linux, LibreOffice, etc) depends on copyrights to enforce freedom. Many might agree that copyrights and patents are TOO LONG, or the enforcement has been handled incorrectly, or that certain things that are being patented should not be allowed (like software), or the interpretation has been bogus.... but their existence it important for not only innovation, but also the economy. In your example about medicines- if a company could not reap profits by protecting their IP, they would have absolutely zero incentive to spend millions of dollars to try and develop new drugs.
  • I don't have the time, nor is this the place for this conversation, but I promise you are looking at IP with your eyes closed. Look at who prospers from IP the most. Look who suffers because of it.
  • What are some examples of who prospers most? Name a few please. Posted via Android Central App using an LG G2.
  • And that's coming from someone with tux as their profile pic. (That adds credibility)
    via N7
  • It should... I do know quite a bit about FOSS & copyrights. But go ahead and say what you like about someone you don't even know.
  • Good idea. Take it away. That way Johnny Startup can come up with a revolutionary idea, have no protection for it and watch helplessly while Apple and Samsung steal his idea and throw millions behind their marketing of it.
    Yeah, that'll work real well.
  • That goes both ways though, the startup could implement all the good ideas that Applesung have come up with, expand on them, and not be worried about being buried in a lawsuit because some megacorp fears real competition.
  • And as soon as the startup expands on the idea, Applesung will swoop in and take their improvements and put their millions in marketing behind it. The little guy will never ever win in this.
  • I don't know about that. The bigger you get, the harder it is to respond quickly to market innovations.
  • The key, though, is they have money. So they don't NEED to innovate. Look at Microsoft. They don't ever really innovate. When they can't bully the market, they just buy what they want. If there were no IP protections, MS and the like could just "steal" anything they like. Same with drugs- if there were no medication IP protections, big pharma would immediately take or reverse engineer anything that came up within months and bam, game over for everyone else. IP protections doesn't just protect big companies, it protects small ones and individuals too. The problem is not that IP protections exist, it is that the terms are unfair and too long.
  • +cos(90) Posted on my Galaxy S III, Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (2013) or Gateway ID49C
  • TRUTH Posted via Android Central App
  • I have (had someone violate my copyright). I was in music production. And when someone posed the question to me, I honestly said, "I'd love for that to happen." I know the real money isn't in album sales, it's in touring and licensing music to other labels, movies, advertisements, commercial venues, etc. I'd rather people share my music and grow my fan base than to prohibit the growth. Of course I speak for myself, but it's worth it to me to lose out on the album people are sharing in order to grow listeners. Posted via Telepathy, Android version HAL 9000 "Carne Asada"
  • You might rather have someone share YOUR stuff. And as a copyright holder, YOU should have that right to decide, not others. And the music industry is not the same as books, movies, software, drugs, etc. Some have other outlets for revenue, others do not. Plus, this "licensing music to other labels, movies, advertisements, commercial venues, etc." all requires copyright and copyright protection... or should they just copy it and use it however they like?
  • I'd You read my post, I clearly state the difference between a major business and a fan using the music that is copyrighted. In fact, it still happens. The record label usually just goes to the venue or business after they've played the track and basically say stop playing it or pay up. That is of course if it's worth it to... Posted via Telepathy, Android version HAL 9000 "Carne Asada"
  • So you are proposing that individuals should be able to ignore copyright and so can small businesses, but a major business can't? I don't think that would work very well either.
  • No, I'm simply debating the money argument of the subject. Posted via Telepathy, Android version HAL 9000 "Carne Asada"
  • Ye but its usually big company's that all they care about is money money money! And there only bothered about copywrite because they are loosing a few millions but a few millions on too of Microsoft's billions pffft pure greed Posted via Android Central App
  • What's annoying is that they seem to be using the same piss-poor matching techniques that Youtube uses. Put together a presentation with a 7 second clip from an ad as an example of a catchy jingle to share with a client. Guess what. I'm taking my files out and switching over to BTSync as the backend and OwnCloud as the frontend.
  • Yep. Violating copyrights is bad. But, if you don't want your stuff being scanned by your cloud service, try SpiderOak: https://spideroak.com/ Everything you put on their servers is encrypted and they don't have the key. Only you do.
  • I used spider oak a few years ago and it was OK, but their UI was horrible and they expected me to manually manage my file versioning which was eating up all my space. I'm not manually deleting old versions of thousands of files. No thanks.
  • The real news here is that "private" isn't very private after all.
  • And that is certainly not news.
  • Anything you have in the cloud, including cloud storage isn't really private. Another reason I don't use cloud storage. Posted via Android Central App
  • Encrypt the file using strong a encryption system before you upload it. Make the filename innocuous and Bob's your mother's brother. Screw them and copyright too
  • Bingo
  • Love those techno-libertarians respecting our property rights--oh wait, only huge, tax-evading corporations get those. Posted via Android Central App
  • I really hope people are not genuinely surprised by this.
  • Dropbox did the same to me... I had a PS3 app (nothing copyright infringing, just a file manager) but it was named Grand Theft Auto V, so Rockstar sent them the DMCA and Dropbox neutered my folder. Ive since switched to sing G Drive more, but I still keep some files on Dropbox--even tho I cant share them. The worst part is the dispute process is so muddled, that u really cant even fight Dropbox back.
  • +1 for sd cards!
  • I'm done with Dropbox. Posted with my HTC One GPe via Android Central App
  • Great write up. Good to know. Thanks! Posted via Android Central App
  • I wonder if Dropbox let's the NSA snoop in my files. Posted via Android Central App
  • Best bet is to own your cloud server. I suggest the Buffalo Cloudstor, it has a great android app with it. Posted via Android Central App
  • This isn't really related to the post, but is that LED in the image purple? Has HTC finally allowed for more colors in the notification light?
  • That's not the notification light, that's the proximity sensor. The camera used to take the picture is picking up the normally near-invisible infrared light and displaying it as purple.
  • Simply encrypt everything in Dropbox with EncFS (http://ninjatips.com/encrypt-dropbox-using-encfs/) then Dropbox can't track them.