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FreeDrive renews reason for service switch off

But pulled public file sharing facility stays pulled

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Online storage provider FreeDrive has changed its mind about why it decided to suspend its public file sharing facility just over a week after blaming its move on software pirates.

Company chairman Jack Sandner emailed users this week, writing: "On Monday, January 22, FreeDrive sent out an email informing you that the Public Sharing Utility was being discontinued... The email indicated that unlawful file-sharing activity was occurring, and that software manufacturers and government agencies were investigating."

According to Sandner, "that information was incorrect".

The original email, from FreeDrive president David Falter, said: "We at FreeDrive have determined that significant abuses of our Public Share utility are occurring by individuals who are selling illegally obtained software to others.

"In an effort to co-operate with software publishers and the United States Department of Justice, we have elected to halt, for the foreseeable future, ALL use of the Public Share utility."

It now turns out that "FreeDrive has no evidence that unlawful file-sharing was or was not occurring, and the company has not been contacted by any software vendor or government agency," according to Sandner's email. "In the end, the Public Sharing Utility was discontinued for sound business reasons - a huge amount of bandwidth was being used by a small percentage of users. It was not cost-effective, and most importantly, we decided it would impact our service to you."

Effectively, Sandner is saying the company made all that stuff about software piracy and co-operation with the DoJ up. We can see why it might do so: pulling a service because it's proving too expensive to run is all very well and good, but it doesn't sound too good to inconvenienced subscribers. Far better, then, to spin it up a bit. The snag is, you risk getting rather more publicity than you bargained for, and this appears to have been what happened at FreeDrive. Hence FreeDrive's quick volte face.

FreeDrive provides users with 50MB of free Web-based storage. It funds the service and makes its money selling advertising space targeted at its users. According to Sandner, it has over 12 million of them worldwide, up from ten million in December, an increase of more than 20 per cent in just over a month. ®

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