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Judge rejects claims Cloudflare should be held responsible for customers' copyright infringement

'We don’t host the content of the websites at issue'

Cloudflare is not liable for any copyright infringement for content hosted on websites its content-delivery network supports, a US federal judge ruled this week.

The San Francisco-based concern was sued by wedding dress and gowns wholesalers Mon Cheri Bridals and Maggie Sottero Designs in 2018. Every time those two businesses shut down copycat retailers that were ripping off their dress designs and selling the clothes online, new websites would pop up to replace the counterfeiters.

In the end, the pair accused Cloudflare of copyright infringement for providing technical services to those sites.

“These internet websites, including ones serviced by Cloudflare which are the subject of this complaint, have manufactured, imported, distributed, offered for sale and sold counterfeit goods, including bridal gowns, social occasion dresses, prom dresses and other formalwear using copyrighted images of plaintiffs’ dresses, they continue to do so to this day,” according to the wholesalers' lawsuit [PDF].

“Cloudflare contributes to, and thereby enables, the successful efforts of these counterfeit websites to deceive the consuming public and violate the copyrights of Plaintiffs and other members of the formalwear industry,” it continued. The complaint was later amended with Mon Cheri Bridals as the lead plaintiff, which requested a jury trial.

Judge Vince Chhabria, sitting in a federal court in northern California, however, disagreed, and rejected the claims.

"The plaintiffs have not presented evidence from which a jury could conclude that Cloudflare’s performance-improvement services materially contribute to copyright infringement," he ruled [PDF]. “The plaintiffs’ only evidence of the effects of these services is promotional material from Cloudflare’s website touting the benefits of its services.”

It’s not the first time Cloudflare has been hit with claims of copyright infringement, the company’s head of risk, litigation, and employment, Patrick Nemeroff said: “Over the years, copyright holders have sometimes sought to hold Cloudflare liable for infringing content on websites using our services. This never made much sense to us.

“We don’t host the content of the websites at issue, we don’t aggregate or promote the content or in any way help end users find it, and our services are not even necessary for the content’s availability online. Infrastructure service providers like Cloudflare are not well positioned to solve problems like online infringement ... We agree with the district court’s reasoning, and we hope it goes a long way towards discouraging these types of claims in the future.”

The Register, which is a customer of Cloudflare, has asked Mon Cheri Bridals for comment. ®

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