Popular CDN and DDoS protection service Cloudflare has come under a lot of pressure from copyright holders in recent years.
The company offers its services to millions of sites. This includes multinationals, governments, but also some of the world’s leading pirate sites.
Not all rightsholders are happy with the latter. Some have accused Cloudflare of facilitating copyright infringement by continuing to provide access to these platforms. At the same time, they call out the CDN service for masking the true hosting locations of these ‘bad actors’.
Cloudflare sees things differently. The company positions itself as a neutral service provider that doesn’t ‘host’ any infringing content. They just pass on information that is cached on its services temporarily.
Identifying ‘Infringing’ Customers
This means that if copyright holders send DMCA takedown requests to Cloudflare, the company takes no action other than forwarding the DMCA takedown notices to its customer. The customer can then take action, if appropriate.
Not all rightsholders agree with this approach and some have filed lawsuits to hold Cloudflare liable. Others have gone to court to obtain DMCA subpoenas, which require the CDN provider to hand over all personal details it has on allegedly infringing customers.
We regularly report on these DMCA subpoenas, which target torrent sites, streaming sites, and many other pirate portals. In its latest transparency report, Cloudflare reveals how many accounts and domain names were impacted.
Subpoenas Target 35,382 Domain Names
The report shows that during the first half of 2021 the number of targeted domains skyrocketed. The subpoenas, which include DMCA subpoenas, targeted 35,382 domain names. For comparison, ‘only’ 79 domains were targeted during the same period a year earlier.
Based on these numbers it could be easy to conclude that copyright holders are ramping up their enforcement efforts, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, the number of civil subpoenas Cloudflare received during the six-month period increased only slightly.
During the first half of 2021, Cloudflare received 45 subpoenas and the company answered them all. Together, these affected more than 325 Cloudflare customers. A year earlier the company received 31 subpoenas, which targeted 548 accounts.
To comply with the subpoenas, Cloudflare can share the IP-addresses that were used to access the site as well as the login times. In addition, it can hand over other ‘basic subscriber info.’
“This basic subscriber data would include the information our customers provide at the time they sign up for our service, like name; email address; physical address; phone number; the means or source of payment of service,” Cloudflare writes.
Removal and Blocking Requests
Previously, courts have ordered Cloudflare to block specific sites but no new orders came in during the first half of last year. The company did respond to several DMCA takedown requests. In these cases, the reported content is stored on Cloudflare’s network.
These regular DMCA takedown requests targeted 32 accounts and 367 domain names during the reporting period. This is a significant increase compared to a year earlier when 4 accounts and 4 domain names were impacted.
Aside from copyright issues, Cloudflare also responds to other enforcement requests, including trap and trade orders and search warrants. These have also gone up over the years.
These increases are not really unexpected as Cloudflare has grown its business significantly, the company explains.
“While there has been a steady increase in the number of law enforcement requests since our first transparency report in 2013, this is due in part to the exponential increase in the number of Cloudflare customer domains during that time period.”
A copy of Cloudflare’s full transparency report is available through the company’s official website.