[UPDATE] Dropbox has gone on the PR offensive today, answering these allegations. As the commenter below pointed out, the bandwidth limits Dropbox imposes on public links may help to curb copyright violations. See the full story here.
Jon Ying, a Dropbox designer, announced on The Dropbox Blog today that Dropbox will now allow users to share links to their files and folders. Anyone with a link to a file or folder can access the content through a web browser. Dropbox will present files in-browser for those who click on links, without letting them edit the files. Photos will be presented in a gallery, video in an in-browser player, or documents and presentations in similar displays. Here’s the kicker, though, from the blog post:
But just in case a friend wants to save that picture or PDF for later, they can choose to either download it or save it straight to their Dropbox.
This effectively turns Dropbox into exactly what the now-defunct Megaupload was: cloud storage to which users could give out links. Megaupload is the cloud storage site shut down earlier this year by the U.S. Justice Department. It was claimed that the site functioned as “an international organized criminal enterprise,” and was a haven for piracy and copyright violation. Just as Megaupload was and other cloud storage services still are, Dropbox will be used for pirated content. Will Dropbox be shut down as a criminal conspiracy overnight due to copyright concerns, leaving millions of users without access to their files? Looking at the way the Megaupload case was botched, it’s certainly possible.
The confidence with which Dropbox has announced the new feature makes me wonder what sort of safeguards, if any, Dropbox has set up that differentiate it from other cloud storage and sharing options, such as the aforementioned Megaupload. With so many users, it won’t be long before Dropbox is being used to pass around copyrighted content. The 2GB limit on a basic Dropbox account is large enough to store a full-length, high-definition version of an hour-long TV show.
What do you think? Is there some fundamental difference between Dropbox and Megaupload that I am missing? Let me know in the comments section below.