Cloudflare and RIAA Agree on Tailored Site Blocking Process

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Cloudflare and the RIAA have agreed to a tailored process through which the music labels can expand their blocking efforts against the piracy site MP3Skull, if needed. The deal is part of a lengthy legal battle during which both sides dug in their heels, to secure their bottom lines.

Representing various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against pirate site MP3Skull three years ago.

With millions of visitors per month, the MP3 download portal had been one of the prime sources of pirated music for a long time.

In 2016, the record labels won their case , but the site initially ignored the court order and continued to operate. This prompted the RIAA to go after third-party services including Cloudflare, demanding that they block associated domain names.

Cloudflare objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. However, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn’t apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering.

The court stressed that, before issuing an injunction against Cloudflare, it still had to be determined whether the CDN provider is “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site. This has yet to happen. Since MP3Skull has ceased its operations, the RIAA has shown little interest in pursuing the matter any further.

While there is no longer an immediate site blocking threat, the order opened the door to similar blocking requests in the future. Cloudflare, therefore, asked the court to throw the order out, arguing that since MP3Skull is no longer available the issue is moot.

A month ago, US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke denied that request, urging the parties to go back to the negotiating table and find a solution both sides can live with.

In short, the solution that Cloudflare and the RIAA agreed on is that the record labels can file an emergency motion requiring the CDN provider to block new domain names of MP3Skull, if the site resurfaces.

“Plaintiffs may request in such an amendment a specific direction to Cloudflare to cease providing services to websites at specified domains without needing to show that Cloudflare is in active concert or participation with the Defendants with respect to such services,” the order reads.

The RIAA must inform Cloudflare in advance if it plans to file such a request, which then has the option to respond. If there are no objections, the CDN provider is required to take action within 24 hours, or a full business day, whichever is longer.

This is essentially what the RIAA was after, but Cloudflare was sure to make it clear that the ruling does not mean that they are seen as operating “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site.

“For the sake of clarity, the Court’s direction to Cloudflare […] is not a finding that Cloudflare is ‘in active concert or participation’ with Defendants as provided in Rule 65(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” it reads.

This means that the order, as with the previous injunction, leaves many options open and questions unanswered. It is specifically tailored to one site, without setting in stone how similar cases will be dealt with in the future.

But considering the recent pressure from rightsholders on Cloudflare, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this battle is renewed in a new arena in the future.

Meanwhile, MP3Skull, the site which got this all started, hasn’t been seen online for over a year.

A copy of US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke’s order is available here (pdf).


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