▸ Letters of Support for Quad9 and Freedom of DNS Resolution

Quad9 has a judgement levied against it in German court regarding resolution of hostnames associated with sites containing links to alleged copyright infringement. You can view our blog post for more details.

Your business may quickly be involved in this decision, though it may not seem obvious. DNS providers are clearly at risk, as are a wide range of other security services and software.

It is a double-edged sword in that Germany often sets the standards for the EU, and the EU is setting the standards for the world. If this judgement is allowed to stand in Germany, it may inadvertently allow rightsholders to effectively control your business, create massive cost issues, and seriously damage the trust between your customers and your product.

Please read the objection Complete Objection Filing PDF – German (original) or the Machine Translated English Version and the FAQ. It’s worth your time to think about how this may have negative results on your business and costs if allowed to stand. More important is the potential negative effect on your user community, and the erosion of trust that will occur in the DNS and in protective cybersecurity systems in general.

Potentially other filtering/blocking tools may logically be next in the crosshairs for inclusion into the mandatory content blocking regimen, with subsequent legal attack to enforce arbitrary rightsholder censorship on your customers if you do not comply. If recursive DNS systems can be forced to block alleged copyright infringement, it is a clear and obvious next step to enforce such blocking lists in anti-virus software, browser plugins, firewall systems, spam filters, and any other software that provides protection against threats in some fashion. You are no further away from the infringer named in this case than Quad9 when this interaction is drawn on a network diagram, and Quad9 has no more relationship with the infringing parties than your offering may have.

Consider the costs and implications of handling just German rightsholders’ submissions.

There are serious and extensive unexpected consequences to this ruling, and we have not yet been able to contemplate all of them, as it is sufficient for us to object only on the most obvious implications as they apply to Quad9.

To walk through one of the many thought experiments we have discussed internally: Let us say your company runs a virus blocking software platform, and your systems could block access to named websites as part of your product, and your system was updated every day with new lists of sites. You have customers in Germany. Imagine a well-respected news site whose unflattering reporting contained internal memos from Company X as photographs. After publication, Company X claimed copyright ownership of the content of the photographs, and sued the news site across international borders. Regardless of the outcome of the suit against the news site, Company X approaches your firm in Germany and indicates that you must block access to the news site on the grounds of alleged copyright infringement. Would you refuse? On what grounds? You are not the site being sued, and there is no requirement for a judgement to be made for the rightsholder to present their claim to you, so you have little recourse. If you block the domain, what customers get blocked and what customers get through? Whose geolocation data do you trust? What if you blocked the domain and the news site sued your company for restraint of trade? Does your firm have the time and legal expertise to look at every submission and make that decision, and take that responsibility for content not even under your control in any way? What happens when there are hundreds of rightsholders sending you blocking orders every day?

This is a frightening example, and there are many more in the queue. We think this hypothetical situation is not so far-fetched within the reasoning that has been provided by Sony to the Hamburg court, and this rapidly expanding set of unintended results demonstrates why we think this is a matter that affects a far larger community.

How Can You Support Quad9?

We need your help. In the immediate term, we need funds to fight this ruling in the courts. We need to pay our excellent legal team, and put together resources in case we lose the first round and are required to continue to fight in a higher court. We are getting assistance from organizations like the GFF and eco (German-based Association of the Internet Industry,) but we need to have resources to continue this with our other legal costs and possible penalties. As a reminder for those not familiar: In Germany, the loser pays the legal fees for the plaintiff, as well as any court costs or fines. It would be reasonable to think that this case was targeted against us because of our size and lack of a full-time on-staff legal team.

Once the precedent is set with this case, then it is more difficult for larger organizations to counter statements by rightsholders against their organization, and it becomes more expensive to do so. Think of supporting Quad9 as an inexpensive preventative measure against larger future harm.

You can contribute to Quad9 via Paypal today.

Simultaneously with funding we need people to talk about this, and to say things publicly in opposition to this ruling. If you are unable to provide material assistance, perhaps you can find the time to offer some moral support. We hope that we can build a list of supporters whose corporations would take a stand on this topic, or who individually are recognizable to policymakers by merit of their existing technical or policy expertise.

We would also solicit individual industry leaders with high visibility in any of the areas of: policy, standards body, cybersecurity, or other relevant experience. European and particularly German statements of support would be especially appreciated, though we recognize this is ultimately a worldwide issue and all statements of support are welcome.

Thanks to those who already publicly stated their positions of support!

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Please add your name to the list above and provide us with a letter of support

Below we provide some sample text – feel free to write your own, but we offer the wording below as a possible wording that highlights some of the key issues we think are important not just for Quad9 and DNS recursive operators, but for the cybersecurity industry overall.

Send your letters of support on company letterhead (if applicable) in PDF format to legalsupport@quad9.net and we will compile the list of comments and contributors in subsequent public proceedings and in future policy discussions.

Please include a postal address in your document so that we may create the correct regional responses. If you wish your address and email address to remain confidential, please just include it in the email message instead of on the document itself.

Sample Text for the Letter of Support

To whom it may concern:
We believe that the act of recursive DNS resolution is not within the justifiable legal boundaries of control by rightsholders during infringement litigation. In order for the DNS to remain a stable, secure, and trusted platform, we would urge policymakers and regulators to clarify and reiterate the long-standing understanding that recursive resolution is a neutral technical function that should not be subject to blocking demands imposed by private parties based on data that has not been ruled upon by a suitable and fair court process.

Further, we believe that systems that are designed for providing cybersecurity (be they DNS-based or otherwise) should not be made available to be repurposed for other goals against the interest and intent of the service operator or the end user. This type of corruption of core internet infrastructure risks eroding the trust in both the operators and a technology that is core to the continued well-being of the internet and that of the citizens who use it.

We support Quad9 in their objection to the ruling of the Hamburg Court of (Case 310 O 99/21), and hope that the court finds in favor of the defendant.