Dropbox asks file sharing add-on to drop dead

When a new file-sharing add-on to Dropbox was released, it asked the author to take down his code; removed a copy from its own servers after claiming to have issued itself a DMCA notice; then leapt majestically into an internet comment thread to denounce piracy.

Pitched as a 'successor to torrents,' Dropship is a python script that makes it easier for Dropbox users to share files, allowing for anonymous, encrypted downloads through the cloud storage service. Created by Wladimir van der Laan, it was briefly available via the author's site, until being removed at Dropbox's request. The add-on contravenes Dropbox's terms of service, which users agree to when they sign up.

Mirrors of the original script began appearing as soon as news spread of the removal, with hosters adding download links to a thread at Hacker News.

One such mirror was hosted by Dan DeFelippi … in his own Dropbox. Soon thereafter, he was emailed by Dropbox to inform him that it had sent itself a DMCA notification of DeFelippi's copyright infringement.

Dear Dropbox User:

We have received a notification under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") from Dropbox that the following material is claimed to be infringing.

/Public/laanwj-dropship-464e1c4.tar.gz (the Dropship archive)

Accordingly, pursuant to Section 512(c)(1)(C) of DMCA, we have removed or disabled access to the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity.

As a result of this notice, public sharing on your account has been disabled for a period of 3 days.

It later apologized, said that it had not actually sent itself the DMCA takedown, and that the email sent to DeFelippi was accidentally generated when his public sharing privileges were suspended. DeFelippi added, however, that Dropbox CTO and cofounder Arash Ferdowsi asked him to delete his comments at Hacker News. The comments included the text of Dropbox's demented DMCA email.

"Dropbox's censorship was nearly successful," DiFillipo wrote. "In the aftermath Dropship all but disappeared from the internet. All public repositories and archives I could find were taken down. The takedown requests instilled fear in Dropbox users who didn't wish to lose their account."

In a comment published at Hacker News, a poster identifying themselves as Dropbox cofounder Drew Houston claimed that the action was necessary because torrent-style use encouraged illegal file sharing, and that they would "take great pains to keep it off of dropbox." The aim, he wrote, was to prevent people turning it into "the next rapidshare."

"There were no legal threats or any other shenanigans to the author or people hosting — we just want to spend all our time building a great product and not on cat-and-mouse games with people who try to turn dropbox into an illegal file sharing service," he wrote.

Dropbox's latest PR snarl follows last week's one, when it was criticized for claims that gave users the mistaken impression their files were securely encrypted by the service.

Download Dropship [Driver Dan's Github] (Mirror)