Google removes popular file-sharing app from Play Store due to hacking concerns *TorrentFreak

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The Czech file sharing and hosting platform Ulož.to has millions of users. In addition to the site, some people use the official app on Android devices. However, following an allegation of widespread piracy, Google decided to remove the app from the Play Store. Ulož believes the complaint is unfounded and filed a counter-notice to have the app restored.

To the global public, Uloz.to It may not be a household name, but in the Czech Republic it is huge.

The file sharing and hosting service is among the top 35 most visited websites in the country, while its mobile apps are also frequently used.

Like many other file storage platforms, Ulož can be used to share a wide variety of files, but according to copyright holders, many people abuse the platform to share music, pirated movies and TV shows.

Repeat complaints

This criticism is not new. Over the years, Ulož has been repeatedly reported to the US Trade Representative as a notorious pirate site. In addition, the platform was sued by Czech film distributor CinemArt, which demanded that a download filter be put in place.

Ulož won his “filter” battle with the film company on appeal, but that certainly didn’t end the piracy complaints. Every day new takedown notices arrive. As the file-sharing platform removes these infringing files, copyright holders want it to do more.

Czech Anti-Piracy Society Weemazz is one outfit that has repeatedly complained. Working for clients including HBO Europe, Czech Television and TV Nova, he has sent hundreds of thousands of takedown notices to the platform. As Ulož responds to these requests, infringing content continues to be uploaded.

Google takes action

This prompted Weemazz to report the file-sharing platform to Google, asking the company to remove the app from the Play Store. After an independent investigation, it is exactly what google did.

“Google granted our request to remove the Uloz.to app, Weemazz boss Radim Horák said. “Based on its own inspection, Google confirmed our findings and removed the app from the Google Store.”

As of last week, the Ulož app is no longer available in the Play Store. Interestingly, Apple users can still find it in the App Store. In addition, the site also remains available via the usual web browsers.

The Ulož Android application can also be installed via another path. Just when the app was removed from Google’s Play Store, the service sent a tweet, pointing to a page where users can find the APK, to install it directly on their Android devices.

The Tweet (translated)

tweet uloz

Uloz.to filed a counter-notice

Speaking to TorrentFreak, a spokesperson for Uloz.to said the company disagrees with the complaints. He filed a counter-notice with Google, hoping the app will be restored in the near future.

“We are still in the middle of the counter notice process. We believe that the application will become available again because the claims of the representatives of the rights holders are more FUD than a solid legal argument,” Uloz.to informed us.

“But it’s hard to guess how Google ultimately decides because there are no fixed rules. We can all only hope that the new regulations will impose some transparency on access control platforms such as Google. , Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc.

There are indeed new regulations being discussed in the EU and the US that challenge the power of major technology platforms. On the other hand, however, there are also “upload filter” proposals and planned regulations, which could have a negative impact on Ulož.

Besides disagreeing with the removal of the app, the file-sharing platform is also disappointed with local Czech media. According to Ulož, these were merely repeating what the copyright holders and their representatives had written in a press release.

“All press articles are based on a press release sent by representatives of rights holders. No one has contacted us for comments and clarifications,” Ulož tells us.

Rights holders are happy for now

The counter-notice could change things but, for now, Weemazz and its customers are happy to see that Google has taken down the app. The anti-piracy company says it sends out thousands of takedown notices a day without seeing any improvement, so something had to be done.

“In January alone, we illegally shared content on over 100,000 links removed from Uloz.to. Nevertheless, Uloz.to has not yet taken any measures to prevent illegal sharing in any way or at least better inform its users of the illegality of their activities,” the company states.

Ideally, rights holders would like to see some sort of advanced upload filtering on the file sharing platform. However, as the legal battle with CinemArt showed, Ulož opposes such strict measures.

According to Weemazz, this leaves rights holders no choice but to find alternative ways to solve the piracy problem. In addition to suing the app, this includes directly suing Uloz.to users, demanding that they pay millions of Czech crowns in damages.

TorrentFreak contacted Weemazz to inquire about these reported actions against users, but the company did not immediately respond.

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