CDN provider Cloudflare is one of the leading Internet companies, providing services to millions of customers large and small.
The service positions itself as a neutral intermediary that passes on traffic while making sure that customers remain secure. Its userbase includes billion-dollar companies such as IBM, Shopify, and L’Oreal, but also countless smaller outlets.
With a company of this size, it comes as no surprise that some Cloudflare customers are engaged in controversial activities. This includes some pirate sites and services, which have landed Cloudflare in court on several occasions.
Last year there were two prominent cases against Cloudflare in Italy. In the first one, football league Serie A and Sky Italy requested Cloudflare to block the unauthorized IPTV service “IPTV THE BEST” and in a similar case, rightsholders wanted “ENERGY IPTV” blocked.
Cloudflare Appeals Blocking Injunctions
Cloudflare lost both cases and was ordered to block the services in question. While the company hasn’t commented on the legal actions in detail, it decided to appeal the two injunctions at the Milan court.
Last Friday, the court ruled on the “IPTV THE BEST” case, confirming that Cloudflare is indeed required to block access.
In its defense, Cloudflare argued that it doesn’t provide hosting services but merely passes on bits and bytes. In addition, it pointed out that the IPTV service could still remain active even if its account was terminated.
Cloudflare Facilitates Access
The court was not convinced by these arguments and concluded that Cloudflare contributes to the infringements of its customer by optimizing and facilitating the site’s availability.
“It is in fact adequately confirmed that Cloudflare carries out support and optimization activities to showcase sites, which allow the visibility and advertising of illegal services,” the court concluded.
That the IPTV service could continue without using Cloudflare is irrelevant, the court stressed.
In addition, the court confirmed that copyright holders are entitled to these types of protective blocking measures, even if the activity of the online intermediary itself is not directly infringing.
The Milan court reached the same conclusion in Cloudflare’s appeal against the “ENERGY IPTV” injunction, which was decided yesterday. In both cases, the court also confirmed that the injunctions are “dynamic”, which means that if the IPTV services switch to new domains or IP-addresses, these have to be blocked as well.
While the ruling is a setback for Cloudflare, copyright holders are pleased. Attorney Simona Lavagnini, who represented Sky Italy, informs TorrentFreak that it will now be easier to hold online services accountable for infringing customers.
“I am pleased to see the position taken by the Court, confirming that injunction orders can be addressed to all providers involved in the provision of services to those who offer illegal contents on the web.
“This principle is now general and includes telecoms as well as passive hosting providers and other services such as CDNs,” Lavagnini adds.
We also reached out to Cloudflare for a comment on these recent court orders but the company didn’t immediately reply. The CDN provider previously confirmed that it has been legally required to block several domains, without going into further detail.
With regard to earlier blocking orders, Cloudflare said that it complies with these in the relevant jurisdictions. In other words, the targeted services remain available in other countries. Whether that’s also the case here is unknown.
Update: The legal team representing the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A (LNPA), which includes Bruno Ghirardi, Stefano Previti, Alessandro La Rosa, and Riccardo Traina Chiarini, is happy with the outcome and told us the following:
“Cloudflare participates in activities that allow the visibility of the illicit services IPTV THE BEST and ENERGY IPTV – also through the storage of data from these sites – and participates in the flow of data in violation of the rights of LNPA.”
“This implies the legitimacy of targeting Cloudflare as a passive subject of the precautionary order, despite the possibility that, in the absence of Cloudflare’s services, illicit access to the protected content would be also possible.”