Italian court upholds web blocking order against Cloudflare DNS resolver

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By | Posted on Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Milan court rejected an appeal by internet services company CloudFlare which sought to block an injunction requiring it to stop people from accessing three copyright-infringing BitTorrent sites through its DNS resolver.

Although a completely legitimate company, Cloudflare has been regularly criticized by copyright holders for not being more proactive in detecting and blocking any copyright infringing activity that occurs on its platform. Cloudflare remains reluctant to take action against allegedly infringing customers simply on the advice of a copyright owner, but generally complies with copyright-based court orders.

However, the court order obtained by the Italian record industry in July was a bit different, as it specifically concerned Cloudflare’s DNS resolver, aka A DNS resolver is a key part of the so-called Domain Name System that allows people to browse the Internet. Most people just use the DNS resolver provided by their ISP, but you can switch to an alternative if you know what you’re doing.

There are various reasons to switch to an alternative, but one reason could be to circumvent web blocks put in place by an ISP, possibly for copyright reasons. That’s why copyright owners have recently started focusing on DNS resolvers, in an effort to make the web blocks they’ve imposed on ISPs seeking to block access to piracy sites more effective. .

In Italy, the dispute with Cloudflare concerned the blocking of three piracy sites. Italian regulator AGCOM had ordered the said sites to be blocked, an order that applied to ISPs in the country. But, according to the record industry, this order should also apply to the Cloudflare DNS resolver, in order to prevent any Italian user seeking to circumvent the blockade by switching to the service. And the Court of Milan accepted.

Cloudflare recently commented on efforts to force web blocks on its DNS resolver in a transparency report it published. He wrote, “Cloudflare has… received a small number of legal requests related to content blocking or filtering via public DNS resolver Because such a block would apply globally to all users of the resolver, regardless of location, it would affect end users outside the jurisdiction of the blocking government.”

“Given the widespread extraterritorial effect, as well as the different global approaches to DNS-based blocking,” it continues, “Cloudflare has taken legal action before complying with requests to block access to domains or content through public DNS resolver or identified other mechanisms to comply with relevant court orders. To date, Cloudflare has not blocked content through public DNS resolver”

In Italy, that meant appealing July’s injunction. But the Milan court has now dismissed the appeal, meaning Cloudflare must now find a way to comply with the court order or risk being subject to fines. Needless to say, the latest move has been well received by the recording industry.

Frances Moore, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said: “Cloudflare’s services allowed users to access copyright-infringing websites that take away revenue from those who invest in music and create. By upholding the original order against Cloudflare, the Milan court set an important precedent that online intermediaries can be required to take effective action if their services are used for music piracy.”

Meanwhile, the boss of Italian music industry trade body FIMI, Enzo Mazza, added: “This is an important decision for Italy and beyond. Cloudflare, along with other intermediaries providing similar services, should step up their efforts to prevent users from accessing illegal websites that have been ordered blocked.”


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