Dropbox Says It Doesn't Snoop on Your Personal Files After Displaying DMCA Notice to User

As any other company in the US, Dropbox must comply with DMCA

By on March 31st, 2014 08:49 GMT

Users are none too happy with Dropbox after a screenshot made its way online yesterday, showing that an individual was prohibited from sharing a certain file in accordance with the US copyright law.

The company’s copyright policies and terms of service have been put under question due to this particular picture and the reactions on Twitter were quite vehement.

The issue with this is that Dropbox must have searched through the files and decided which violated copyright and which were perfectly legal. This makes users distrust the company’s attitude towards protecting their privacy. After all, if Dropbox looks into your folders, who knows what else it does, right?

“Certain files in this folder can't be shared due to a takedown request in accordance with the DMCA,” reads the message displayed to Darrell Whitelaw.

This makes a reference to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which allows copyright holders to request sites and companies to take down content that they own. Google, for instance, as well as other search engines, are often sent such requests, which demand that they remove various links from their search results pages.

YouTube, as well, often removes videos that contain tracks that infringe copyright or other type of content. In fact, this has become a rather abused form of battle against piracy.

Dropbox, too, must comply with DMCA, since it operates in the United States.


Sensing the trouble that the Twitter posting could create, the company was quick to react, telling Darrell Whitelaw that content removed under DMCA only affected share links.

Basically, his files had not been removed, deleted, or restricted from access. However, he is unable to share that particular file that didn’t belong to him.

Dropbox responds to DMCA requests in two ways. The first one is identical to the one that all tech companies use – they receive the request, process the links and disable them if the claims prove to be true.

The second one is through an automated system that the company has set in place, which prevents other users from sharing the identical material using another Dropbox link. For this, Dropbox compares file hashes.

While it’s not been revealed exactly what file Whitelaw was trying to share, it’s quite probable that it was either a music file or a video that was under copyright.

“We don’t look at the files in your private folders and are committed to keeping your stuff safe,” the spokesperson told ZDNet.

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