Court Says RIAA Can Just Tell Cloudflare Any Site Is A Grooveshark Clone... And Cloudflare Has 48 Hours To Dump Them

from the due-process? dept

Earlier this year, we were fairly concerned when a court ruled in favor of the RIAA in saying that Cloudflare had to automagically block any site that mentioned "Grooveshark" in the URL. Thankfully the court walked that back a bit, saying that the RIAA still had to inform Cloudflare of specific sites, but it still seemed problematic. The issue involved a few "fake" Grooveshark clones (sites pretending to be Grooveshark clones, but which actually were not). The RIAA can go after those sites directly, but the court's willingness to drag in a third party like Cloudflare was immediately problematic. That was a key part of SOPA -- the law that did not pass, yet judges keep pretending it did anyway.

Not surprisingly, whoever operated these sites ignored the lawsuit, leading to a default judgment in the RIAA's favor. That's to be expected when the defendants don't show up. But what's troubling is that the court keeps the injunction for Cloudflare in effect, basically letting the RIAA just designate any particular site as a Grooveshark clone, which Cloudflare then needs to dump within 48 hours. Even worse, if CloudFlare simply comes across a possible violation of the order by a customer, it has to proactively kick the site off its service. From the order:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, in accordance with the terms of the Court's June 3, 2015 Order and its July 9, 2015 Order modifying same, CloudFlare is bound by this Order. Upon receipt notice from Plaintiffs or if CloudFlare otherwise has knowledge of an infringement or other violation of the Permanent Injunction on the part of one of its customers, CloudFlare shall cease providing its services to that customer as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours after receiving such notice or obtaining such knowledge. CloudFlare may expeditiously notify its customers of any impending termination of their accounts as a result of this and related Court Orders.
This raises some fairly serious due process concerns. First off, Cloudflare certainly shouldn't be put in the position of determining what is and what is not infringing or violating this Court Order (in a case where it's not even a party). That puts tremendous burden on an unrelated party and it's a burden that almost certainly will pressure CloudFlare to kick sites off its service with nothing even close to resembling due process. Similarly it provides tremendous power to the RIAA to seriously damage website it doesn't like if they happen to use CloudFlare -- again with little to no due process.

That's not how the law is supposed to work. If there is infringing content, the DMCA allows the RIAA to file takedown notices, which have a clear process for notification and takedown of the infringing works. But what this order allows for is a vague standard, based on no clear law, to completely cut off services for a website, with no due process, no standard notification system and no clear appeals process.

As a default ruling in a district court this has basically no precedential value, but is quite worrisome nonetheless. Even if you believe that sites setting themselves up as Grooveshark clones deserve to be taken down, you should at least support basic due process before they can be killed off, right?

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  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Dec 2015 @ 9:10am

    Re:

    Forcing a 3rd party to take legal action against something without the benefit of a trial isn't what the law is supposed to be.

    The Judge might be able to support her decision in all sorts of ways, but giving the RIAA the power to demand a 3rd party do whatever they are demanded to without any judicial review or downside for screwing what very well could be an innocent 3rd party isn't what the law is for.

    The RIAA has gotten these sorts of super powers before, and they fucked it up. They shuttered sites who did nothing wrong but the parties involved kept them down waiting for the RIAA to back up their claims which had no fscking merit.

    This is overreach, but sadly until they pick the wrong target who can afford a long protracted legal fight they will abuse this power at their whim.

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