US Copyright: Content Delivery Network is not responsible for photos on websites


The Internet service provider Cloudflare does not have to be liable after website operators have infringed copyrights on photos and have used Cloudflare services for their websites. That was decided by the US Federal District Court for Northern California. Plaintiffs had not produced any evidence that the accelerated access to the websites in question through Cloudflare’s services exacerbated the extent of the copyright infringement.

A bridal fashion designer who wrongly sees his own photos of his wedding dresses displayed on third-party websites had sued in 2018. The company accuses Cloudflare of contributing to copyright infringement on these photos. Cloudflare does not operate the websites in question, but has provided security services, caching and other services for friction-free transmission to users (content delivery network) – mostly free of charge, such as Cloudflare in a blog post holds on.

The websites offer wedding dresses for sale that are likely to imitate the designs of the bridal fashion designer Mon Cheri Bridals. This is usually legal in the US. However, the website operators should not have bothered to photograph their robes. Instead, they are said to have copied original images of Mon Cheri Bridals and published these copies in their webshop. If this accusation is correct, it is a violation of the rights to the photos.

Apparently Mon Cheri Bridals is having trouble holding the website operators accountable. Cloudflare was much easier to file and has money. However, Mon Cheri Bridals has not shown how Cloudflare would contribute significantly to copyright infringement.

Cloudflare’s security services are designed to protect websites from attacks. From the point of view of a common user, these safety precautions make no difference – or sometimes even slow them down. At the same time, the website operators cannot hide behind the security offer, as Cloudflare forwards all copyright complaints and at the same time reveals the identity of the website operator. This transparency at least made the judge’s decision easier.

Caching and content delivery networks can indeed accelerate access to websites. However, the websites including the incriminated photos could be accessed without a cache and content delivery network, even if it took a little longer. “The plaintiffs have not offered any evidence that faster loading times (if they were faster) likely lead to a significant increase in legal violations that would happen without Cloudflare,” the judge wrote in his brief statement. Cloudflare’s services are also not an “essential step” in the alleged rights encroachment.

A reasonable jury could not possibly come to a different conclusion in view of the file situation, which is why the judge dismisses the case without referring to the jury. Mon Cheri Bridals could appeal against the decision, or apply for further evidence to improve his own suit. The bridal fashion designer is of course allowed to take legal action against the actual infringers.

This is not the first time that Cloudflare has been the target of such a lawsuit in a third party conflict. The company is pleased with the current ruling, and hopes it will help reduce similar lawsuits in the future: “We believe this will be better for the Internet.”

The procedure is called Mon Cheri Bridals, LLC et al v. Cloudflare Inc. et al and is pending in the US Federal District Court for Northern California under Ref. 3: 19-cv-01356.


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