Cloudflare ordered to identify website owners in copyright spat

A judge has decided that a subpoena can be served against the company to identify two website owners.

A subpoena against hosting provider Cloudflare to force the firm to unmask website operators in a copyright infringement case can be issued, a US judge has ruled.

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As part of an ongoing intellectual property dispute, cloud hosting provider Cloudflare has been ordered to reveal the domain operators behind Libgen and Bookfi, two alleged pirate websites alongside Sci-Hub involved in the complaint.

As reported by TorrentFreak, a New York federal court has decided a subpoena can be issued against the company, which used to host both Libgen and Bookfi.

Cloudflare is used by millions of websites worldwide for hosting and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection.

Although Cloudflare no longer hosts these websites, publisher Elsevier has involved the company in an attempt to unmask those behind Libgen and Bookfi. In the court order (.PDF), the academic publisher says that without this information, the firm "will be unable to advance its claim against the operators."

As a result, federal Judge Robert Sweet has granted Elsevier's request for a subpoena against Cloudflare.

"It is therefore ordered that Plaintiffs' Application for Leave to Take Expedited Discovery from CloudFlare concerning the identities of the operators of the websites libgen.org and bookfi.org is granted," the order reads. "Plaintiff may serve a third party subpoena on CloudFlare requiring production of records relating to the identities of the operators."

The court says that Elsevier has provided "substantial" evidence that the websites in question have infringed upon Elsevier's copyrighted works. At the time of writing, neither website is accessible through their old addresses, although one is still active using a different domain name and offers a variety of academic texts.

Due to the order, Cloudflare will have to hand over any identifying information the company still possesses on its old customers. However, it remains to be seen how much data Cloudflare still stores -- and whether it will be enough to placate Elsevier.

Speaking to The Register, a Cloudflare spokesman said:

"The plaintiff forwarded a subpoena to us on Friday. We intend to respond to the subpoena with the information available to us, that's our policy. Our policy also directs that we notify the customer about this prior to providing the information.

To be clear, we're not a part of that lawsuit and didn't have any notice of the proceeding. The court simply permitted the plaintiff to take third-party discovery from Cloudflare. They've now sent us a subpoena, and we plan to respond."

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