Google, Cloudflare & Cisco Will Poison DNS to Stop Piracy Block Circumvention

Home > Anti-Piracy > Site Blocking >

A French court has ordered Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco to poison their DNS resolvers to prevent circumvention of blocking measures, targeting around 117 pirate sports streaming domains. The move is another anti-piracy escalation for broadcaster Canal+, which also has permission to completely deindex the sites from search engine results.

football blockIn France, where laws were introduced with site-blocking and similar anti-piracy measures already baked in, entertainment giant Canal+ seems intent on taking full advantage.

Like similar broadcasters with lucrative sports rights to exploit, Canal+ has a subset of viewers who prefer to consume from pirate sources which charge much less, or even nothing at all.

To maximize its existing site-blocking efforts through local ISPs, the French broadcaster has now taken the logical, albeit controversial, next step on the site-blocking ladder.

DNS Tampering at the Local ISP Level

In 2023, Canal+ went to court in France to tackle pirate sports streaming sites including,,,, and The broadcaster said that since subscribers of local ISPs were accessing the pirate sites using their services, the ISPs should prevent them from doing so.

When the decision went in favor of Canal+, ISPs including Orange, SFR, OutreMer Télécom, Free, and Bouygues Télécom, were required to implement technical measures. Since the ISPs have their own DNS resolvers for use by their own customers, these were configured to provide non-authentic responses to deny access to the sites in question.

In response, increasingly savvy internet users that hadn’t already done so, simply changed their settings to use different DNS providers – Cloudflare, Google, and Cisco – whose resolvers hadn’t been tampered with; at least not yet.

One More Step Up The Ladder: Public DNS Tampering

Use of third-party DNS providers to circumvent blocking isn’t uncommon so last year Canal+ took legal action against three popular public DNS providers – Cloudflare (, Google (, and Cisco (, demanding measures similar to those implemented by French ISPs.

Tampering with public DNS is a step too far for many internet advocates but for major rightsholders, if the law can be shaped to allow it, that’s what will happen. In this case, Article L333-10 of the French Sports Code (active Jan 2022) seems capable of accommodating almost anything.

When there are “serious and repeated violations” by an “online public communication service” whose main objective is the unauthorized broadcasting of sports competitions, rightsholders can demand “all proportionate measures likely to prevent or put an end to this infringement, against any person likely to contribute to remedying it.”

Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco Ordered to Prevent Circumvention

Two decisions were handed down by the Paris judicial court last month; one concerning Premier League matches and the other the Champions League. The orders instruct Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco to implement measures similar to those in place at local ISPs. To protect the rights of Canal+, the companies must prevent French internet users from using their services to access around 117 pirate domains.

According to French publication l’Informé, which broke the news, Google attorney Sébastien Proust crunched figures published by government anti-piracy agency Arcom and concluded that the effect on piracy rates, if any, is likely to be minimal.

Starting with a pool of all users who use alternative DNS for any reason, users of pirate sites – especially sites broadcasting the matches in question – were isolated from the rest. Users of both VPNs and third-party DNS were further excluded from the group since DNS blocking is ineffective against VPNs.

Proust found that the number of users likely to be affected by DNS blocking at Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco, amounts to 0.084% of the total population of French Internet users. Citing a recent survey, which found that only 2% of those who face blocks simply give up and don’t find other means of circumvention, he reached an interesting conclusion.

“2% of 0.084% is 0.00168% of Internet users! In absolute terms, that would represent a small group of around 800 people across France!”

Court Rejected Arguments Against Blocking

In common with other courts presented with the same arguments, the Paris court said the number of people using alternative DNS to access the sites, and the simplicity of switching DNS, are irrelevant.

Canal+ owns the rights to the broadcasts and if it wishes to request a blocking injunction, it has the legal right to do so.

The DNS providers’ assertion that their services are not covered by the legislation was also waved aside by the court.

Google says it intends to comply with the order. As part of the original matter in 2023, it was already required to deindex the domains from search results under the same law.

At least in theory, this means that those who circumvented the original blocks using these alternative DNS services, will be back to square one and confronted by blocks all over again.

Given that circumventing this set of blocks will be as straightforward as circumventing the originals, that raises the question of what measures Canal+ will demand next, and from whom.

Tribunal Judiciare de Paris | Canal+ | Cloudflare/Google/Cisco
Premier League UEFA Champions league

Popular Posts
From 2 Years ago…