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French Court Orders Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco to Poison DNS Resolvers to Block Pirate Sports Streaming Sites

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A French court has mandated that Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco tamper with their DNS resolvers to prevent users from bypassing blocking measures aimed at approximately 117 pirate sports streaming domains. This move marks another escalation in anti-piracy efforts by broadcaster Canal+, which has also received permission to completely remove these sites from search engine results.

Canal+ Steps Up Anti-Piracy Measures

In France, laws incorporating site-blocking and similar anti-piracy measures have been long established, and Canal+ is leveraging them to their full extent. The broadcaster, which holds valuable sports broadcasting rights, faces a subset of viewers who prefer using pirate sources due to lower costs or free access.

To enhance its site-blocking efforts through local ISPs, Canal+ has now taken a more aggressive step on the site-blocking ladder.

DNS Tampering at the ISP Level

In 2023, Canal+ secured a court order in France to target pirate sports streaming sites such as Footybite.co, Streamcheck.link, SportBay.sx, TVFutbol.info, and Catchystream.com. The court ruled that since local ISP subscribers were accessing these pirate sites, the ISPs should prevent this access. Consequently, ISPs like Orange, SFR, OutreMer Télécom, Free, and Bouygues Télécom had to configure their DNS resolvers to provide non-authentic responses, denying access to the targeted sites.

Circumventing DNS Tampering

Resourceful internet users began using alternative DNS providers, such as Cloudflare, Google, and Cisco, whose resolvers remained untampered. This workaround prompted Canal+ to seek legal action against these public DNS providers.

Legal Action Against Public DNS Providers

Last year, Canal+ initiated legal proceedings against Cloudflare (1.1.1.1), Google (8.8.8.8), and Cisco (208.69.38.205), demanding they implement similar blocking measures as those enforced on French ISPs. Although tampering with public DNS is controversial among internet advocates, major rightsholders push for it if legal frameworks permit. Article L333-10 of the French Sports Code, effective January 2022, supports extensive measures against unauthorized sports broadcasting.

Court Orders Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco to Block Pirate Sites

Last month, the Paris judicial court issued two orders related to Premier League and Champions League matches. The court instructed Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco to implement blocking measures to prevent French internet users from accessing approximately 117 pirate domains, similar to the measures imposed on local ISPs.

Google attorney Sébastien Proust argued that the impact on piracy rates would be minimal. Using data from government anti-piracy agency Arcom, he concluded that only a small fraction of users would be affected by DNS blocking. Proust estimated that DNS blocking would impact just 0.084% of French internet users, and only 2% of those would give up on accessing blocked content.

Court Dismisses Arguments Against Blocking

Despite arguments presented by DNS providers, the Paris court maintained that the number of people using alternative DNS and the ease of switching DNS are irrelevant. Canal+ holds the rights to the broadcasts and can request a blocking injunction. The court also dismissed the assertion that DNS providers’ services are not covered by the legislation.

Google has indicated its intention to comply with the order. This follows a previous requirement from 2023 to deindex the domains from search results under the same law.

Future Implications

While circumventing these new blocks may be as straightforward as before, this raises questions about the next measures Canal+ might pursue and who will be targeted next in the ongoing battle against piracy.

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    French Court Orders Google, Cloudflare, and Cisco to Poison DNS Resolvers to Block Pirate Sports Streaming Sites