German court case could have huge repercussions

All internet users rely on something called the Domain Name System (DNS). Recursive DNS resolvers are the phone books of the internet. Every user interacts with a DNS resolver, which translates URLs into IP addresses, sending internet traffic to the right location.

In 2021, a German court ordered DNS resolver Quad9 to block a site on the basis of an allegation that the site linked to another site that contained pirated material. A law firm hired by Sony Entertainment had visited the site in question.

However, there has been no evidence presented that any Quad9 user actually visited the site or downloaded any copyrighted material. The site in question doesn’t actually house the copyrighted material, it’s more akin to a search engine that was used to access the site with illegally hosted content.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other third-party intermediaries enjoy certain liability protections that limit their ability to be charged in similar circumstances. Yet, the courts have failed to apply these protections to Quad9, despite the role of DNS resolvers as mere conduits. And a key consideration is that the court upheld the damages based on Quad9’s failure to block an allegation by Sony, prior to any legal finding.

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