Sony Music has obtained an injunction that requires the freely available DNS-resolver Quad9 to block a popular pirate site. The order, issued by the District Court in Hamburg, Germany, is the first of its kind. The Quad9 foundation has already announced that it will protest the judgment, which could have far-reaching consequences.
Copyright holders have made serious work of website blocking in Germany.
A few months ago a voluntary agreement was announced with the country’s largest ISPs, which agreed to block pirate sites after a verification process.
This is a major win for rightsholders, but one that can be easily defeated. The Internet providers use relatively simple DNS blockades which can be circumvented by switching to third-party DNS resolvers such as Google, Cloudflare or Quad9, which are all free to use. However, that loophole may not last forever.
Last week Sony Music obtained an injunction at the District Court of Hamburg which requires the Swiss DNS-resolver Quad9 to block access to a site that’s frequently used to host pirated music. While the site remains unnamed, the consequences could be far-reaching.
The Hamburg court found that the DNS service is not eligible for the liability protections that other third-party intermediaries such as ISPs and domain registrars typically enjoy. And if Quad9 fails to comply with the injunction, it will have to pay a fine of 250,000 euros.
One of the arguments that Sony brought up in court was that Quad9 already blocks various problematic sites voluntarily. In fact, the DNS-resolver promotes threat blocking as a feature.
“Quad9 blocks against known malicious domains, preventing your computers and IoT devices from connecting to malware or phishing sites,” the company’s website reads.
Bill Woodcock, chairman of the Quad9 foundation, doesn’t believe that the company’s malware and phishing filters, which help to protect users, are on par with blocking a pirate site. He informed the German news site Heise that Quad9 will object to the injunction.
Woodcock also criticized Sony for giving Quad9 only a few hours to respond. The record label’s attorney sent a letter on March 26, 2021, with a deadline that expired at 4:00 pm. on the same day.
The injunction is also criticized by Thomas Rickert, a lawyer at the German internet association ‘eco’. “I cannot imagine a provider who is further removed from responsibility for any illegal domains than a public resolver operator,” he told Heise.
This is not the first blocking order against a third-party online intermediary in Germany. Last year, Universal Music obtained a similar injunction against Cloudflare. That order wasn’t for Cloudflare’s DNS-resolver, but for the CDN service.
The Cloudflare injunction applied to the pirate music site DDL-Music, which could also be the target in the Quad9 injunction. However, there’s another, perhaps more likely candidate.
As highlighted earlier, if this injunction stands it will be a powerful tool to complement the voluntary ISP blockades. At the moment that blocklist only includes three sites. Of those three, canna.to is the only one that offers access to pirated music, so that would be our bet.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.