Copyright and the Internet: Milan Court Orders Cloudflare’s DNS Service

On July 11, the Milan court issued a preliminary injunction against Cloudflare, an American company that provides DNS (Domain Name System) services among other things, ordering to block the DNS resolution of several torrent sites. These were found to infringe the copyrights of Sony, Universal and Warner by illegally making pieces of music available to the public.

DNS is a system that allows users to access websites by transforming website addresses (i.e. “www” strings) into numeric IP addresses, through a process of conversion from name to IP address called “DNS resolution”. This system allows users to find a website by its name instead of its IP address, which is much longer and harder to remember.

The preliminary procedure before the Court of Milan follows several decisions by which AGCOM, at the request filed by the Music and Multimedia Piracy Control Federation (Federation Against Music and Multimedia Piracy – FPM) on behalf of Sony, Universal and Warner, had ordered service providers to block Italian users from accessing the affected torrent sites.

Following these decisions, the petitioners found that while the infringing sites were not accessible to the public via the connections offered by the service providers (TIM, Vodafone, etc.), they were instead accessible via the public DNS service provided by Cloudflare.

The petitioners therefore filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the Court of Milan against Cloudflare, as an intermediary service provider involved in copyright infringement pursuant to Article 156 of the Italian Copyright Law . The petitioners claimed that Cloudflare, while able to comply with AGCOM’s orders, failed to implement the requested restrictions and still allowed Italian users to access infringing websites using the service. Cloudflare DNS.

Before the court, Cloudflare argued, on the one hand, that from a practical point of view, the blocking measures requested by the petitioners could not be implemented without negative consequences for the accessibility of other websites not infringing and, on the other hand, that such measures were essentially useless, since the infringing websites could have been easily accessed through other public DNS services anyway.

The Milan court rejected Cloudflare’s arguments and granted the PI, ordering Cloudflare to immediately implement the most appropriate technical measures to prevent all users of its services from accessing the infringing websites, blocking DNS resolution of the domain names concerned (and their pseudonyms), and ordering Cloudflare to pay a fine of 10,000 euros per day of delay in the execution of said injunction.

The aforementioned decision is quite important because for the first time a court was faced with the question of how to deal with a blocking order issued by a public authority (and implemented by Italian access providers) which can be circumvented by simply using a public DNS service, such as that provided by Cloudflare.

Cloudflare appealed the decision. The Milan court will therefore have the opportunity to assess in more detail the problems associated with this particular type of DNS resolution service.

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