Among those who cheered the arrival of Google's online storage service, Google Drive, last month were opportunists who harbour a nefarious agenda: to pirate files.
You see, with the January takedown of file-uploading website Megaupload, and similar sites such as FileSonic disabling sharing features in the aftermath, pirates are increasingly being cornered.
While it is laudable that Google's latest service has prompted the search giant's rivals to improve their existing services, some people might harness them for not-so-legal purposes.
The similarities between the services of three brand-name firms and Megaupload are uncanny. Megaupload allowed users to upload files and share links to the files with other netizens to download for free.
There was a size limit for each file that non-paying users could upload, which at one time was 2GB. They had up to 200GB of online storage, too.
Paying users presumably had no limits on file size and storage.
Google Drive, Microsoft's SkyDrive and SingTel's Store and Share services are similar, in that files uploaded by a user can be shared with others through links to the files.
However, Google Drive and SkyDrive have imposed a cap on the size of files that can be uploaded by people using their free, basic services as well as those who pay fees for more storage space. This can limit the extent of how much can be pirated at a time.
Google Drive's file-uploading size limit is up to 5GB for free users and 10GB for paying users.
SkyDrive's limit is up to 300MB when using a Web browser and 2GB when using a desktop application for the service.
SingTel's Store and Share service does not have any file-uploading size limit. The amount of space you get for free depends on what other services you have.
Still, don't count on SingTel, Google, Microsoft and other established brands to protect you from the law should you use their services to share files illegally.
All three told me that they do not condone illegal file-sharing, and have service terms that users have to follow. While Google does not scan files for copyrighted material, it provides rights holders with a way to get illegally uploaded files removed. Google will close the accounts of repeat offenders.
Microsoft said it may refuse to publish a user's file for sharing if it infringes on copyright and may remove the file, too.
SingTel doesn't monitor users' content, but will disable user accounts if laws are breached.
Because of the statutory and contractual protection these service providers have, "rights holders are unlikely to be able to sue them", said Mr Richard Yeoh, the head of intellectual property at David Lim & Partners.
In comparison, users who share files illegally and download them do not enjoy such protection.
Penalties for such users could include a fine and jail time, said Mr Bryan Tan, a director of Keystone Law Corporation.
Still, users could avoid the penalties by showing that the infringing files are used in a "fair" way, he said. For instance, the files could be used for non-commercial research, study, review or criticism, and making parodies.
Even so, Mr Tan said he has not heard of court cases here where such a defence has been used to try to protect illegal file sharers and downloaders.
The bottom line? If you want to upload files for online storage, make sure you have the rights to do so.
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