Sony Music Says DNS Service Is Implicated In Copyright Infringement At The Domains It Resolves

from the first-they-came-for-the-resolvers dept

One of the characteristics of maximalist copyright companies is their limitless sense of entitlement. No matter how much copyright is extended, be it in duration, or breadth of application, they want it extended even more. No matter how harsh the measures designed to tackle copyright infringement, they want them made yet harsher. And no matter how distantly connected to an alleged copyright infringement a company or organization or person may be, they want even those bystanders punished.

A worrying example of this concerns Quad9, a free, recursive, anycast DNS platform (Cloudflare has technical details on what “recursive” means in this context). It is operated by the Quad9 Foundation, a Swiss public-benefit, not-for-profit organization, whose operational budget comes from sponsorships and donations. In other words, it’s one of the good guys, trying to protect millions of users around the world from malware and phishing, and receiving nothing in return. But that’s not how Sony Music GmbH sees it:

In June, Quad9 was served with a notice from the Hamburg Germany court (310 O 99/21) stating that Quad9 must stop resolving certain domain names that Sony Music GmbH believed were implicated in infringement on properties that Sony claims are covered by their copyrights. Quad9 has no relationship with any of the parties who were involved in distributing or linking to the content, and Quad9 acts as a standard DNS recursive resolver for users in Germany to resolve those names and others.

Sony Music is not alleging that Quad9 is infringing on copyright directly, but that its DNS service allows people to access a Web site that has links to material on a second Web site that infringes on copyrights. On this basis, the Hamburg Court has used Germany’s law on indirect liability to order Quad9 to cease resolving the names of those sites. But as the Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte explains, there’s a crazy twist here. Under German law:

[Internet] service providers who provide access to unlawful information or transmit such information are expressly no longer liable for damages or responsible for removal, nor can an injunction be granted against them. However, the Hamburg Regional Court assumes that Quad9 cannot invoke this liability privilege because it does not itself route the copyright-infringing information from A to B, but merely provides indirect access to it. This understanding of the law leads to the contradictory result that Quad9 is deemed liable for copyright infringements precisely because it has even less to do with the copyright infringements than Internet access providers, who are equally not involved in copyright infringements but at least do transmit the data in question.

Quad9’s FAQ on the case points out that if allowed to stand:

this would set a dangerous precedent for all services used in retrieving web pages. Providers of browsers, operating systems or antivirus software could be held liable as interferers on the same grounds if they do not prevent the accessibility of copyright-infringing websites.

The past history of media companies suggest that, given such a capability, they would indeed go after all of these incidental operators, as part of an insane quest to put every aspect of the Internet at the service of copyright.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: quad9, sony music

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Comments on “Sony Music Says DNS Service Is Implicated In Copyright Infringement At The Domains It Resolves”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

In June, Quad9 was served with a notice from the Hamburg Germany court

Can somebody explain how a German court can order a Swiss company to carry out the blocking. If that is accepted as reasonable, then the whole Internet ends up being subject to the desires of all the censorious regimes around the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The GPL prevents other people from using your code in proprietary programs. In doing so, it effectively forces developers to either license their code under the GPL (thereby making it available to anyone who wants a copy) or not use your code at all.

If copyright did not exist, anyone could develop a closed-source program with open-source components, and nobody could do anything about it. And, since reverse engineering binaries is hard (even more so if this hypothetical developer decided to obfuscate their code), it would be difficult to notice any copying was taking place.

This type of GPL violations do happen — but they’re illegal, and you’ll be forced to release the entirety of your codebase if you get caught.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The GPL prevents other people from legally using your code in proprietary programs.

FTFY. The difference is 3-15 years of litigation and money with enough digits to wrap your checkbook. But it would be keen if the GPL did have the superpower of physically preventing use in proprietary programs, wouldn’t it?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

DNS as an encyclopedia

Others have already addressed the absurdities of German courts, Swiss sites (err??) etc. Yup.

DNS is a one-way client-server lookup of resource records (RRs). Typically it is a search for an IP address (A record) or IPv6 address (AAAA record) as a result of a text string ""

This is no different than an encyclopedia or a phone book, both of which have protection under US copyright laws. If a company chooses to publish one with records that reflect unlawful activity, that’s a protected right in the US.

Disclosure: I run DNS servers. Some have subdomains administered by clients who set their own lookup name and RRs. None will be taken down based on any action of any court. Lawyers will get richer, and stupid laws will be denied.


This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Whoever says:

Swiss, you say, and not subject to US law?

$ whois


ARIN WHOIS data and services are subject to the Terms of Use

available at:


If you see inaccuracies in the results, please report at


Copyright 1997-2021, American Registry for Internet Numbers, Ltd.


NetRange: –
NetName: CLEAN-97
NetHandle: NET-9-9-9-0-1
Parent: NET9 (NET-9-0-0-0-0)
NetType: Direct Assignment
OriginAS: AS19281
Organization: Quad9 (CLEAN-97)
RegDate: 2017-09-13
Updated: 2020-05-22

OrgName: Quad9
OrgId: CLEAN-97
Address: 1442 A Walnut Street, Suite 501
City: Berkeley
StateProv: CA
PostalCode: 94709
Country: US
RegDate: 2017-09-07
Updated: 2021-01-19
Comment: Global Public Recursive DNS Resolver Service

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe there’s a treaty between the USA and Germany or the EU Re the ability to remove or block websites or domains that may host links to illegal or infringing content . If dns providers can be sued then almost any company or service could be sued if it provides a services to websites that link to illegal content Germany has laws that are different than most European country’s in reference to copyright infringement

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Treaties about DNS servers

Maybe there’s a treaty

No, there isn’t. I’ll try not to bore you with the history but DNS was originally handled by the US military, then the US DoC. They created IANA and ICANN to offload the oversight and stuff. Both IANA and ICANN quickly became money-grubbing add-nothings. Karl Auerbach has expounded on this much better than I could so I recommend reading his thoughts.

At any rate

  • no treaties
  • all contract law as per registration "agreements" (look up "contract of adhesion" if you want to know your rights…)
  • failure to resolve and return a resource record is a no-no


That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Can we get Sonys left hand to sue the right hand?

If they didn’t make content that could be pirated, then no one would pirate their content.

They are causing this problem & we demand in injunction to stop them from continuing to release content that will indirectly cause more piracy.
With this 1 injunction we could end all piracy against Sony and I see nothing wrong with this idea we shoudl execute it immediately.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:


GPL enforcement and litigation is easily found so I’ll leave it to the reader, so should he/she be inclined to do so.

The GPL prevents other people from using your code in proprietary programs.

No, that’s not what the GPL does. The GPL provides specific licenses to allow use of the code. In almost all cases, providing you release the code or make it available, the GPL is a nonissue.

Some companies use GPL code as part of their proprietary stuff without releasing the code. They get sued, and thus far have failed to win [like "lost" but with private settlements so hard to say] 100% of the time.


Ehud Gavron (profile) says:


The whole /8 is the loopback interface (lo0 on some systems). It doesn’t have to end in 0.0.1… just start with 127.

Trivia (arcana?):
1973 was a very different year than 2021. People did not have personal computers, phones did not communicate with towers, and IPv4 addresses would "never run out." Assigning a /8 to ARPA (Net-10), MILNET (Net-26), loopback (Net-127), and even MIT made a mint selling part of their "assigned and necessary" /8 of IPv4 addresses.

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