Share-Online: background information and information about the shutdown

On Thursday, October 17th, 2019, the file hoster „Share-Online.biz“, which is popular in Germany, was taken offline. The reason for this was a raid on the operators of the service, during which the apartments of the three suspects in Germany, the Netherlands and France were searched.

The alleged operators of Share-Online are still at large, but the service now only shows a police blocking page:

Update: Even a week after „share-online.biz“ was shut down, the police blocking page is still online.

How long has Share-Online existed?

The Share-Online domain was already registered on January 14, 2007, and the service became known to the general public in 2008. After large upload portals such as Rapidshare and Megaupload were closed due to legal problems, Share-Online was able to gain large market shares, especially in German-speaking countries. The hoster was operated by the mailbox company „Xlice Corp.“ from Belize, but those responsible were still in Europe.

Business model and German account

Like other one-click hosters, Share-Online.biz financed itself through the sale of so-called premium accounts. Depending on the contracted term, a premium month cost between 3 and 10 euros, the payment methods included credit card, paysafecard, pay-by-call, pay-by-SMS, direct debit, bank transfer and also cryptocurrency – in the past it was also possible to use PayPal and immediate transfer to be paid.

The interesting thing about it: In the early years, a German account with the Sparkasse in Aachen was used for premium transfer payments. However, this was terminated by the bank in 2016, so that the payments then went through the BalticPay Cooperation in Latvia.

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Are File Hosters Illegal?

So-called one-click hosters are not directly illegal per se, since they initially have no responsibility for what an individual user uploads to their platform. It is important here, however, that a file hoster removes a file promptly if a corresponding notice is received from a rights holder. If an illegal file is removed, the system should also save a corresponding hash to prevent the same file from being uploaded again. According to the GVU, at least the last point was not implemented with Share-Online, so uploaders could upload exactly the same file again and make it available again directly.

Cash rewards demand pirated copies

Another point that could be fatal to the administrators of Share-Online is the upload bonus offered. Active uploaders could earn money by advertising for premium accounts and by downloading their files. Such a premium program is usually viewed as critical because it indirectly encourages the uploading of popular and therefore mostly illegal files.

What are the penalties for downloaders?

In principle, downloading copyrighted works is also illegal, but it is very likely that the respective Internet users will not have to reckon with criminal prosecution. In the past, other hosters and portals such as Kino.to or Megaupload were taken offline by the authorities. At that time, the focus was mainly on uploaders, while downloaders were not penalized.

Have IP addresses been saved?

In general, criminal prosecution for pure downloaders seems relatively unlikely, at least if you take the official advertising slogans from Share-Online to heart. In the past, the hoster had often emphasized that log files are deleted and are only used for a short time to record the download limit. Even most smaller uploaders will probably not be traceable at all due to the lack of logging.

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Will the uploaders be penalized?

While smaller uploaders will probably have nothing to fear, just like downloaders, things will probably be a little different for the top uploaders. In any case, the GVU will have a strong interest in determining the identity of the respective mass uploaders and their backers and will hold them to account accordingly. Even if IP addresses were not saved, some people will probably be identifiable via the various payout methods for the upload bonuses.

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