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DNS Provider Cleared of Copyright Infringement

Client Updates / Dec 28, 2023

Written by Haim Ravia and Dotan Hammer

The Swiss DNS provider Quad9, a non-profit organization that offers domain name translation services and protection against phishing and malicious software, has won an appeal in its legal battle against Sony Music concerning the blocking of websites offering pirated content. The Higher Regional Court in Dresden, Germany, overturned an earlier order that had compelled the service to block pirated websites. The court concluded that a DNS service cannot be deemed a copyright infringer as it does not play a significant role in activities that violate copyright rights.

The dispute began in 2021 when Sony Music obtained an injunction mandating Quad9 to block access to a specific pirated site. The site in question, initially unnamed but later revealed as, was already part of a voluntary blocking agreement involving rightsholders and ISPs. Quad9, adhering to its non-profit mission and principles, strongly opposed this injunction, emphasizing its stance against piracy but arguing against extensive blocking measures that affect internet service providers not directly involved in piracy. Initially, Quad9’s opposition was unsuccessful, and the Regional Court in Hamburg upheld the injunction. However, upon appeal to the Higher Regional Court in Dresden, Quad9 prevailed.

The Dresden court found that DNS services, under German and European law, cannot be held liable for copyright infringement, as they are neutral network intermediaries not engaged in the infringing activities of pirate sites. The court emphasized that these services do not “host” the infringing content and that their users are not making the infringing content publicly available. Essentially, these services simply convert domain names into IP addresses.