Free F1 Streaming Sites Latest Targets of France’s Blocking Piracy Campaign *TorrentFreak

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Following in the footsteps of football leagues and boxing promotions, Canal+ has secured a court order forcing local ISPs to block dozens of sites accused of illegally broadcasting Formula 1 events. This order is the latest in a long series of anti-piracy actions in France, where fledgling regulator Arcom added hundreds of domains to the country’s official blacklist in just a few months.

With the inability to sue every site offering unlicensed content, rightsholders around the world are now fully invested in blocking sites.

Whether the process begins with a court injunction or uses an administrative framework (or both), rights holders block hundreds of ISP-related sites and domains every month. Those looking for a clear, panoramic view of the extent of site-blocking measures will find an opaque system, which seems designed to limit the amount of information made available to the public.

That being said, actions that begin in court can shed light on who gets restraining orders. In France, premium television company Canal+ has returned to the fray with what appears to be the first injunction intended to curb Formula 1 piracy.

The Paris tribunal de grande instance says “yes”

New legislation in France allows rights holders to enter fast-track legal proceedings that allow for “proportionate measures” to prevent online infringement. In January, sports broadcaster beIN became the first company to win a blocking order protecting football rights.

The ongoing block now supports beIN, the UEFA football league and local broadcaster Canal+, with the latter now expanding its campaign to support the company’s new contract with Formula 1.

Lequipe reports that the Paris Judicial Court has granted a request from Canal+ to make 39 pirate sites offering unlicensed Formula 1 streams inaccessible. The order concerns four major French ISPs: Bouygues, Orange, Free and SFR.

The order won by Canal+ is “dynamic”, which means that when hackers take countermeasures with new domains, mirror sites or proxies, the regulator Arcom has the power to add new domains to the list and to force ISPs to block them. A sign of how quickly these updates can happen, the initial order to block 39 domains has already expanded to 59 domains and likely won’t stop there.

Local reports indicate that ISP blocks are DNS-based, which means internet users who switch to third-party DNS providers (such as Google or Cloudflare) are unaffected by the blocks. Whether the authorities will seek to close this loophole remains to be seen, but at least for now the lockdown is advancing at full speed in France.

Hundreds of domains blocked since January

At a press conference in April, Arcom announced that since its inception in January, 250 sports hacking sites had been blocked, together representing more than 60% of the country’s “pirate” sports audience. By mid-May, the number of pirate sites blocked had risen to around 400, a figure that includes sites blocked by court order and any additional sites re-emerging to circumvent the block.

Arcom claims that at least 1,200 additional pirate sites have also been blocked by French ISPs, leading to a dramatic drop in piracy, including a reported 77% drop in piracy of the Champions League competition.

It remains to be seen whether any of these activities will translate into additional consumer spending on legitimate services, but this is unlikely to be a prominent feature in anti-piracy reports, at least on the same slides. Charts tend to show how effective blocking is at preventing users from visiting blocked domains, not how effective it is at converting former hackers into paying customers.

In this regard, France also has additional issues of its own that seem to be fueling piracy rather than discouraging it.