Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco must block pirate streams, French court rules

A French court has ruled that Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco must intervene with their DNS resolvers to prevent bypassing blocks on approximately 117 pirate sports websites. This is a significant step in Canal+’s ongoing battle against piracy. Canal+ has also been granted permission to completely remove these sites from search engine results.

In France, where laws already mandate site blocking and other anti-piracy measures, Canal+ aims to fully exercise its rights. Like other broadcasters with sports broadcasting rights, Canal+ faces challenges with illegal content consumption through pirate sites offering free or significantly cheaper access to broadcasts.

To bolster existing efforts through local internet service providers, Canal+ has taken the logical, though controversial, step of intervening in DNS resolvers’ operations.

DNS manipulation at the local provider level In 2023, Canal+ sought judicial intervention against pirate sports sites like Footybite.co, Streamcheck.link, SportBay.sx, TVFutbol.info, and Catchystream.com. The broadcaster argued that subscribers of local ISPs, such as Orange, SFR, OutreMer Télécom, Free, and Bouygues Télécom, should be restricted from accessing these sites.

The court sided with Canal+, requiring ISPs to implement technical blocking measures. As a result, providers configured their DNS resolvers to deliver false responses, preventing users from accessing the blocked sites.

However, users seeking to circumvent these blocks began using alternative DNS resolvers from companies like Cloudflare, Google, and Cisco, which had not been previously targeted.

Intervention in public DNS resolvers The use of third-party DNS resolvers to bypass blocks is not new. Last year, Canal+ filed a lawsuit against popular public DNS providers—Cloudflare, Google, and Cisco—demanding similar blocking measures.

Many internet activists view intervention in public DNS resolvers as excessive, but major rights holders like Canal+ are keen to utilize all legal tools available. Article L333-10 of the French Sports Code, effective since January 2022, allows for proportional measures to prevent illegal sports broadcasts.

Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco mandated to prevent block circumvention The Paris court issued two rulings: one concerning Premier League matches, and the other for the Champions League. The court mandated that Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco implement measures similar to those already in place with local ISPs to protect Canal+’s rights. The companies must prevent their services from being used to access around 117 pirate domains.

According to the French publication l’Informé, Google lawyer Sebastien Prouvst analyzed data from the anti-piracy agency Arcom and concluded that the impact of the blocks would be minimal. Prouvst noted that users of pirate sites using third-party DNS resolvers make up only 0.084% of all internet users in France. Of these, only 2% would stop bypassing the blocks, equating to about 800 people nationwide.

Court dismisses arguments against blocking The Paris court noted that the number of users employing alternative DNS resolvers and the ease of switching them is irrelevant. Canal+ has the legal right to request blocking if necessary to protect its rights.

Google has stated its intention to comply with the court’s ruling. In a previous case in 2023, Google was already required to exclude domains from search results under the same law.

Thus, users who had bypassed initial blocks using alternative DNS services will face blocks once again. This raises the question of what measures Canal+ will take next and against whom.

In light of recent developments, Canal+ continues its aggressive fight against pirate streams, reinforcing its market position and protecting exclusive content rights.

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