Italian Court Orders US Tech Giant CloudFlare to Block Access to BitTorrent Sites

Frances Moore

A court in Milan has ordered US content delivery network firm CloudFlare to block user access to three copyright-infringing BitTorrent sites that have been previously ordered by Italian regulator AGCOM to be blocked.

The move marks a win for the global recording industry as music piracy remains a lingering challenge for the sector despite the popularity of music-streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.

The Court of Milan’s interim injunction order against CloudFlare was in response to an application made by global recording industry body IFPI, which has more than 8,000 members worldwide.

The litigation in Italy was taken by IFPI’s members in Italy including the local arms of Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Entertainment and Warner Music Italia, and was backed by Italian anti-piracy group, FPM, and IFPI’s national group FIMI, IFPI said in a statement on Monday.

“CloudFlare’s services were making it possible for users to access copyright infringing websites which were ordered to be blocked by the Italian regulator AGCOM,” IFPI Chief Executive Frances Moore said.

Moore added that the court decision sends a warning to other platforms that infringe on copyrights.

“By ordering CloudFlare to stop providing access to these sites, the Court of Milan has made an important ruling that we believe sends a clear message to other online intermediaries that they too may be subject to action if their services are used for music piracy,” Moore said.

“CloudFlare’s services were making it possible for users to access copyright infringing websites which were ordered to be blocked by the Italian regulator AGCOM.”

Frances Moore, IFPI

A report by data company MUSO released earlier this year showed that music piracy started growing again in 2021 after falling in the past five years.

The data showed that music piracy has declined consistently from January 2017 until the second half of 2020 on a year-over-year basis, but the trend started to shift in 2021 when music piracy rose 2.18% from 2021.

Private and public torrents accounted for 5% of music piracy last year, while a big chunk of pirated music — or 39.2% — came from stream-ripping sites, such as those that download audio from YouTube, according to the MUSO report.

CloudFlare, which raked in $212 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2022, has been criticized by copyrights groups for protecting the hosting locations of pirate sites by masking their IP address.

The ruling in Italy came nearly two years after a similar decision in Germany where the Higher Regional Court of Cologne ordered CloudFlare to restrict users’ access to content offered by one of its clients’ websites. The application was lodged by a member company of the German Federal Music Industry Association.

The European Commission has in the past highlighted the importance of protecting the legal rights of record companies.

The commission in late 2018 launched a list of sites that infringe music copyright, which according to IFPI’s Moore “offers important and practical guidance for policymakers, law enforcement and international corporations, when identifying and dealing with websites that infringe intellectual property rights.”

Although CloudFlare is not included in the said watch list, the EU noted that some stakeholders have called on the company to improve its cooperation with right holders and enhance its practices when opening accounts for websites to stop illegal sites from using its services.

Most recently, the court in Milan gave CloudFlare 30 days to carry out technical measures to address the issues and stop users accessing the identified BitTorrent sites using the company’s public DNS service.

The company could face a fine if it fails to implement the said rectification. The court has also asked CloudFlare to block any future domains from which the identified sites may operate.Music Business Worldwide

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