Online storage service 4shared has been one of the sites criticised by rightsholders for piracy in recent years: it’s one of the search terms filtered out of Google’s Autocomplete feature on its search engine, and is one of the top five filesharing sites alongside The Pirate Bay, Mediafire, KickassTorrents and Uploaded.

It was also one of the big beneficiaries of the shutdown of rival Megaupload last year, even if like other sites of this ilk, the action against Kim Dotcom’s firm posed questions for 4shared too.

No surprise to find the site talking loudly and publicly about its anti-piracy policies in 2013, then, as it introduces a YouTube-style content-identification system to spot copyrighted music being shared using its service.

The company is using The Echo Nest’s Echoprint technology for the identification part. “4shared has always been a personal online file storage service and has never endorsed online piracy,” 4shared’s Mike Wilson tells TorrentFreak in an interview. “So we have decided to introduce a music identification system, among the other steps, to maintain the reputation of a legitimate file storage and further prevent illegal usage of our service.”

The key here being that people can upload such files to their cloud lockers: it’s if they try to then share those files publicly that they’ll be blocked. And it seems 4shared hopes to follow in YouTube’s footsteps with the new feature: “In the nearest future we will also provide a monetization option instead of simply blocking the file so the users can get the content in a legal way and the owners can make their profit.”

Some rightsholders may find it hard to trust a site like 4shared, which they’ve mainly or only encountered in the context of piracy. But if the new feature works well, it’s a good step forward: an approach to piracy that does not impinge on people’s rights to store files that they own in their private lockers, but which tackles the public-sharing aspect where infringement creeps in.

Not least because it may enable rightsholders to go to other ‘cyberlocker’ services and say ‘If 4shared is doing that, why can’t you?’…

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