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Cloudflare liable for copyright infringement

This post is also available in: Deutsch

In a decision from October last year, the Higher Regional Court of Cologne obliged the provider Cloudflare, which many website operators use for services such as proxy, cache, optimization bars or also for anonymization, to block access to content that was offered on the website of one of its customers. The proceedings had been initiated by a member company of the German Music Industry Association (Bundesverband Musikindustrie) because the content of the structurally infringing website had not been blocked despite being notified of infringements. Cloudflare offers, among other things, a CDN service that is abused by structurally copyright-infringing websites to evade prosecution through anonymization.

The Cologne Higher Regional Court has put a stop to this: It obliged Cloudflare to block content reported to it by rights holders or otherwise block the customer’s entire website. The Higher Regional Court thus confirmed the judgment of the Cologne Regional Court of January 30, 2020 (14 O 171/19).

The plaintiff in the injunction is entitled to claim damages from the defendant in the injunction on the grounds of “Stoererhaftung” (Breach of Duty of Care) in connection with §§ 97 (1), (2) and (3) of the German Civil Code. §§ 97 para. 1, 19a, 85 para. Abs. 1 S. 1 in connection with 31 para. 3 UrhG to enable third parties to make the music album in dispute publicly accessible via the domain listed in the operative part, as was done under the URL stated in the operative part (claim 1c); otherwise, the claim for injunctive relief under 1a and b) is unfounded.

The decision of the Cologne Higher Regional Court is particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that this is the first time that a German higher regional court has upheld an injunction against an anonymization service that prohibits third parties from disseminating illegal offers while concealing the identity of the servers of infringing websites.

The decision could thus be very interesting for numerous rights holders.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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