Ulož.to is one of the most popular sites in the Czech Republic, built on a reputation of allowing users to share files with each other and those further afield. In common with other sites operating in that field, Ulož has found the road ahead becoming increasingly complicated.
While users are free to share almost any file on Ulož, some inevitably share copyrighted content including music, movies, and TV shows. That has drawn negative attention from rightsholders who have sued the platform again and again. In July this year, one of those actions led to a local court fining the site for a movie uploaded by one of its users.
Ulož has also faced pressure to implement upload filters. Citing fears that over-blocking would ensue, Ulož resisted the calls and warned that restricting access to legal content would run contrary to EU law.
EU Law Forces Restriction of Content
To that background, an Ulož statement published Friday is somewhat ironic. Announcing fundamental changes to its business model, Ulož says that from December 1, 2023, users of its file-hosting services will only be able to download files they uploaded themselves. The change effectively ends file-sharing on Ulož and according to the site’s owners, the EU’s Digital Services Act is to blame.
“We have always carefully ensured that the operation of Uloz.to is in accordance with valid Czech and European legislation. This was repeatedly confirmed by court rulings in disputes, which were often purposefully conducted against us,” says Jan Karabina, CEO of Cloud Platforms, the company behind Uloz.to.
“In order to continue to meet all legal criteria in the future, especially in connection with the new European legislation, we are introducing significant changes to the functioning of the cloud storage Uloz.to Disk from 1 December 2023.”
Fundamental Changes Imminent
Now just a week away, Uloz characterizes the incoming changes as fundamental.
“Uloz.to Disk cloud storage services will only be accessible to registered users from Friday 1 December 2023. They will only be able to upload files that they have uploaded to the storage. It will not be possible to share the files to the public or to an address via a link,” the company’s announcement reads.
On a more positive note, Uloz says that users don’t have to worry about losing their files. If any customers are unhappy with the restrictions and don’t want to continue with a premium subscription, they can terminate their accounts or convert to a free package. In any event, any remaining subscription or credits will be refunded.
Digital Services Act
While Uloz notes that the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) imposes obligations on digital services acting as intermediaries, its announcement stops short of explaining exactly which parts of the DSA render its current business model untenable. There’s no shortage of candidates, however.
That ‘actual knowledge’ of illegal content is triggered when takedown notices are sent to intermediaries could prove itself to be a risk too far for those without deep pockets. Not allowing content to be shared with third-parties mitigates that, but given its scope and potential for being overly burdensome on smaller companies with disproportionately large userbases, the DSA’s requirements – as well-intentioned as they are – may have proven simply too much.
Finding itself nominated for notorious market status by the MPA last month is unlikely to have been welcomed by Uloz. Whether that contributed to the decision announced today is unknown but by disallowing file-sharing, it seems likely that Hollywood’s complaints will eventually fade into the distance.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.