Prelude: I develop a cloud service which could be described as dropbox meets torrents and as side effect it enables distribution of arbitrary content via magnet links. Certain amount of magnet links will be displayed on the main website (I will be able to remove them one-by-one or ban users but no more). I will not be able to avoid magnets without complete rework of overall project architecture and either way it will hurt overall performance badly, probably making service meaningless.

So my question is, what should I do, to avoid legal problems if my site in a nutshell is just a collection of magnet links? Privacy achieved via end-user encryption, so there is almost no access restrictions on the website. And anyway will help me any?

Will hosting in particular country help me?


Magnet links are legal just as any other link. Magnet links created for the illegal distribution of copyrighted content is another matter.

There are no laws against hosting torrent trackers, torrent hubs/aggregators, or even hosted file sharing services. Just because copyrighted content can be illegally distributed via HTTP or FTP doesn't mean those technologies are illegal, just as the fact that you can send illegal contraband through the postal system doesn't make snail mail illegal.

  • Magnet links will be created and/or added in unsupervised manner and I honestly will not be able to know that is inside those torrents. Based on fetched file list I (or any other human being) may guess but that will be only guess.
    – Moonwalker
    Feb 22 '12 at 22:48
  • After the story with megaupload I'm kind of scared because I may be accused in "assisting the copyright infringement" which in some sense may be true because people may use the service as the way of sharing copyrighted material, worse they may use it to find that kind of material by simply browsing through "public folders" of the others, but I feel hesitant to forbid them doing so: browsing available to anyone is exactly why public folders were created! In the given circumstances what should be my course of actions?
    – Moonwalker
    Feb 22 '12 at 23:00
  • Add a splash page detailing a legal notice that 'By clicking agree, you concent to using this site for legal purposes only.' Illegal downloading is impossible to fully prevent, but adding a splash page would help avoid legal actions taken against you. Of course you should always know that this is the internet, and anything can happen. Feb 23 '12 at 4:34
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    @Christopher: That's probably true. From a practical standpoint, unless you get to the size of Filesonic, Rapidshare, etc. you probably won't be on the radars of the copyright lobby. However, if you're looking for startup funding, the liabilities are still going to be too high for most investors. Feb 23 '12 at 22:19
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    @Lese: Agreed, size does matter when it comes to legal visibility. Tieing this all back into Moonwalker's question though, there is nothing that will help you stay out of the line of fire except the magnitude of your site. Hosting in another country, a disclaimer, etc. are all methods to delay the inevitable. Feb 24 '12 at 6:24

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