Rightsholders move closer to website blockages via DNS providers

People who use Cloudflare’s popular third-party public domain name system (DNS) resolver – via the easy-to-remember IP address of – may soon find that the company is being forced by the courts to block websites that facilitate Internet copyright infringement (piracy).

A DNS provider will generally work to convert internet protocol (IP) in human-readable form and vice versa (e.g. at examplezfakedomain.co.uk). Such services tend to be provided automatically by your broadband ISP and mobile operator, thus working seamlessly in the background, but it is also possible to replace your provider’s DNS with that of a free third-party service.

REMARK: Many third-party DNS providers are based outside of the UK. Therefore, legal cases raised in other countries could potentially affect the services used by people here.

Most people probably won’t feel the need to use custom DNS providers, but if your ISP starts injecting content (ads, etc.) and filtering systems into your website navigation, or suffers from crashes/is slow with its own DNS, then you may decide to try a third-party service and a lot of people stick with those. However, some people will also use them to circumvent ISPs’ simplistic DNS-level blocking of websites.

Naturally, rights holders are aware of this and so, after forcing ISPs around the world to block websites for piracy on the Internet, some of them are now turning their attention to DNS providers. The first signs appeared last year, after Sony Music won an injunction in Germany that demanded the non-profit Swiss DNS resolver Quad9 to block access to a music piracy site (here), but this decision is currently under appeal.

According TorrentFreak, the Milan court in Italy has now reached a similar result by ordering Cloudflare to block three P2P file sharing (torrent) sites on its public DNS resolver (Kickasstorrents, Limetorrents and Ilcorsaronero). The case was raised by local music industry group FIMI and anti-piracy group FPM – acting on behalf of Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music (Italian divisions).

Frances Moore, CEO of IFPI, said:

“These sites divert revenue from licensed music services and ultimately those who invest in and create music. [The ruling] sends a clear message to other online intermediaries that they too can be subject to prosecution if their services are used for music piracy.

The preliminary ruling gives San Francisco-based Cloudflare just 30 days to implement the blocks against Italian users or face daily fines, but we expect them to appeal. However, DNS providers have the ability to limit the impact of such orders to the country where they are placed, which will be fine for now, but many of these cases are likely to test the waters for future action elsewhere. , and against more providers (public DNS from Google, OpenDNS, etc.).

The English court system may not yet have a say in all of this, but under current laws it is conceivable that it could potentially grant a similar injunction in the future, should an injunction be sought. . The likelihood of this happening increases if the aforementioned cases are ultimately upheld on appeal.

Naturally, Cloudflare, which has yet to comment, sees itself as a neutral third-party service that only caches or forwards content – a service that can’t actually block the website itself (there will always be different ways to access it).

About Sandra A. Powell

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