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EFF Battles Abuse of Site-Blocking Court Orders

PRESS RELEASE
May 29, 2015
Fight Over Music Streaming Site Shows Music Labels’ Overreach

New York – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court in an emergency hearing and a written filing this week to block the recording industry’s move to force Internet infrastructure companies into becoming copyright police with far-reaching restraining orders.

EFF represents CloudFlare, a service that speeds up websites and protects them from malicious attacks. One of its clients runs a website calling itself Grooveshark, which sprung up after a court shut down the more well known music sharing site Grooveshark. Citing trademark and copyright infringement, a group of record companies including Atlantic, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. convinced a New York judge to issue a sealed temporary restraining order. According to the record companies, the order requires service providers of every kind to help take down the new Grooveshark site—even companies like CloudFlare who cannot control their users’ web content or domain names. CloudFlare called EFF to bring the court process into the open and force the recording industry into a fair fight.

“Just because you are providing a service to a website doesn’t mean you should be roped into policing it,” said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. “Copyright holders should not be allowed to blanket infrastructure companies with blocking requests, co-opting them into becoming private trademark and copyright police.”

In the emergency hearing Tuesday, EFF and co-counsel from the firm of Goodwin Procter argued that blocking orders must follow a clear and open legal process, and can’t be directed to companies like CloudFlare. U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan ruled at that hearing that the proceedings must continue unsealed. In further briefing yesterday, EFF and Goodwin Procter opposed the restraining order. Judge Nathan is likely to make a decision about whether to target an order at CloudFlare within the next week.

“The record labels may want to stamp out every incarnation of Grooveshark, but a single court order that puts legal responsibilities on the entire Internet is not the way to do it,” said Stoltz.

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