Cloudflare Will Not Be Held Responsible for Its Customers' Copyright Infringement

Published · Oct 12, 2021

A Northern California judge has ruled that Cloudflare won’t be held liable for copyright infringement by its customers. The lawsuit was initiated by two clothing wholesalers.

Mon Cheri Bridals and Maggie Sottero Designs sued Cloudflare in 2018, reported The Register. Copycat retailers were stealing their designs and selling them online. Every time the two businesses managed to take down the imitators, more would appear to replace them.

In a last-ditch effort, the two parties decided to sue Cloudflare directly. Their complaint goes as follows: “Cloudflare contributes to, and thereby enables, the successful efforts of these counterfeit websites to deceive the consuming public and violate the copyrights of Plaintiffs.”

The judge, Vince Chhabria, disagreed. His ruling found that the plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence to substantiate their claim. The only evidence they provided was promotional material from Cloudflare’s own site.

Going Long

Cloudflare is  one of the best content delivery networks (CDN). As such, it facilitates the delivery of various services’ content. The wholesalers' attempt to sue the company seems like a long shot.

However, it is likely the result of the aggrieved parties’ inability to hit the moving targets. The next best thing would be to try and claim some damages from the well-known and easily reachable Cloudflare.

This isn’t the first time someone has tried this. Cloudflare mentions in an announcement about the outcome of the lawsuit that copyright holders have attempted to hold it liable for its clients’ behavior before.

Although the company is safe for now,  the online landscape of accountability is beginning to change. Following some scrutiny, AWS promised to take a proactive stance to restrict the services and sites it hosts. As a result, it removed Parler for its role in the January 6th Capitol incident.

Other cloud hosts have faced similar scrutiny. On the opposite end, some worry that this could lead tech firms to start suppressing free speech out of concerns for profit margins. Part of the suppressed content, such as hate speech, is illegal, but other cases are more abstract.

It should be noted that Cloudflare won this legal battle because the small-time plaintiffs failed to present compelling evidence. The case could have gone another way. A future case could end differently if there’s enough evidence and scrutiny.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.