Business News Legal

Cloudflare forced to disconnect piracy site following Universal legal action

By | Published on Friday 21 February 2020


Internet services company Cloudflare took the rare step of disconnecting one of its clients on copyright grounds this week, seemingly after legal action by Universal Music in Germany.

The disconnected website was Germany-focused piracy outfit Earlier this week people heading to that site started to see an ‘error 451’ message from Cloudflare, which provided so called reverse proxy services to the piracy site. As all fans of error numbers will tell you, that means a website has been rendered unavailable for legal reasons.

Cloudflare has long resisted efforts by copyright owners to have it police its client base and cut off websites that exist primarily to facilitate infringement. The tech firm argues that that’s not its role; that it can’t simply accept the say so of copyright owners as proof of infringement; and that content companies who want it to disconnect clients should get themselves a court order.

According to German website Tarnkappe, that’s exactly what Universal Music did, via the courts in Cologne. The major’s legal action related to the unlicensed distribution of tracks by German musician Sarah Connor. DDL-Music didn’t actually host the unlicensed files, but facilitated access to them. Universal argued that DDL-Music could still be held liable for contributory infringement, and likewise Cloudflare, as a service provider to the piracy site.

Although Cloudflare tried to push back, seemingly the court in Cologne decided that the tech firm could ultimately be held liable for infringement if it failed to respond to Universal’s demand that the infringing files – or any links to said files – be removed. According to Torrentfreak, an injunction then followed at the end of last month demanding Cloudflare act, with the threat of a 250,000 euro fine or jail time for its Managing Director if it didn’t comply.

Faced with those sanctions Cloudflare did comply. So, a solid result for Universal Music. Except, of course, DDL-Music is now moving its site over to a Cloudflare rival in order to get back online. Good times.