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Dropbox Is Able to Distinguish Copyrighted Material

Dropbox can easily tell if you are sharing copyrighted material within its cloud service, in principle not even really looking at your stuff. Though as a matter of fact, it has been capable to do that for a long time.

Darrell Whitelaw tweeted this weekend how the DMCA has blocked access to his personal folders on Dropbox, making a fuss. However the blockade was an outcome of software that Dropbox has been using for the last two years.

The cloud service site utilizes a method known as “file hashing against a blacklist” to block beforehand selected files from being shared over its servers. In a lot of ways, it is quite decent method; it evades Dropbox from getting in trouble with the Feds, also it never really inspects your files, so it does not infringe its anti-violation policy either.


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How does it work? Basically, Dropbox uses hashing – a straightforward algorithmic solution which maps data of random length to data of a set length – to generate a specific identifier for each file you upload, besides that it encrypts your file hence nobody can read them. The hash is specific to every single file. For even better encryption and security while being online you can use VPN. NordVPN provides a very strong 2048bit SSL encryption.

Though when DMCA claims are sent to Dropbox – by content producers or record labels or somebody else – the files that they are concerned about are hashed as well. If you have been sharing files that Dropbox has received claims about, Dropbox will reconcile its hash to the one on its list, and suspend your sharing of the copyrighted file. Dropbox expresses their respective about this on its site:

“We were getting some questions about how we handle copyright claims. DMCA sometimes sends us claims to delete files on copyright grounds. When we obtain these, we treat them under the law and disable the link if needed. To prevent users from sharing this copyrighted material using Dropbox, we have initiated an automated system. It works by comparing file hashes. We do not check files in your private folders as well as we are devoted to keep your stuff safe.”

Plain and simple, also legal, and done without even looking at a single one of your files. Not perfect if you happen to find yourself in a casual illegal download, on the other hand, Dropbox is not going through all of your stuff to find one copyrighted file.

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