Jul 1, 2024 2 min read

OpenDNS pulls plug on France and Portugal after web-blocking injunctions targeting football piracy

In recent years the music industry has sought web-blocking injunctions against DNS resolvers as well as ISPs in its ongoing battle with online piracy. French broadcaster Canal+ did the same, and Cisco’s OpenDNS has responded by switching off its service entirely in both France and Portugal

OpenDNS pulls plug on France and Portugal after web-blocking injunctions targeting football piracy

OpenDNS, the Cisco-owned DNS resolver, has switched off its service in France and Portugal because of web-blocking court orders targeting football piracy. The dramatic move by OpenDNS comes in response to legal action by French broadcaster Canal+, which sought to prevent access to unlicensed sports streaming sites.

In a statement on Friday, the DNS resolver said that, due to “a court order in France issued under the French Sport code” and “a court order in Portugal issued under the Portuguese Copyright Code, the OpenDNS service is not currently available to users in France and certain French territories and in Portugal”. 

The company apologised for the inconvenience to its users, though it remains unclear if shutting off the service in France and Portugal entirely is a temporary measure or permanent solution in order to comply with the court orders.

Canal+, owned by former Universal Music owner Vivendi, initiated legal action against various internet companies last year in a bid to block people from accessing unlicensed sports streaming sites. The broadcaster’s primary aim was to block access to websites illegally streaming Premier League and Champions League football matches, for which Canal+ holds broadcasting rights in France

Web-blocking has become a favoured anti-piracy tactic for the music, movie and TV industries in territories where copyright law permits such measures. The process usually begins with a copyright owner securing an injunction that compels internet service providers to block access to specific websites that primarily exist to facilitate copyright infringement. 

Once the ISPs put the web-blocks in place, more savvy consumers can often circumvent the blockades by using alternative DNS resolvers instead of those provided by their ISPs. This has resulted in copyright owners seeking separate web-blocks against third-party DNS resolvers. 

There have been a number of similar cases elsewhere in Europe in recent years. Sony Music attempted to get a web-blocking injunction against Quad9 through the German courts, while Universal Music went after the Cloudflare DNS resolver through courts in both Germany and Italy. Ultimately the German courts decided that there were insufficient grounds for forcing a DNS resolver to instigate web-blocks because such a service is a “mere conduit”. 

The Canal+ case in France began in 2023 when the broadcaster secured an injunction ordering ISPs in the country to block access to over 100 pirate sport sites. 

Subsequently, Canal+ returned to court and successfully secured additional web-blocks against DNS resolvers operated by Google and Cloudflare, as well as Cisco’s OpenDNS. According to Torrentfreak, Google has said that it will comply with the web-blocking order, while OpenDNS has now also complied, albeit in a pretty dramatic fashion.

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