A simple mistake caused all the videos on Twitch.tv to be inaccessible in Spain for hours. But the problem did not come from the streaming service itself, but from Telefónica Audiovisual.
How is it possible that a failure in one company has such serious consequences in another? The answer is found in a court decision last February. A ruling that granted Telefónica Audiovisual the power to order operators to block streaming websites without rights, without having to ask the judge to intervene each time. Now it has been Twitch, but tomorrow it may be another platform.
Why the Twitch crash happened
During several hours, the users of the big operators saw how when trying to reproduce any video they received the message of “(Error # 2000)”. About three hours later, from the Twitch Support account the problem was considered solved.
🛠️ This issue seems to be fixed now. Thanks for your patience!
– Twitch Support (@TwitchSupport) May 13, 2021
Instead of requesting the blocking of a video without rights, Telefónica Audiovisual ordered the operators to block all of Twitch.tv
Different sources of operators confirm to Xataka the origin of the problem: “in compliance with a court ruling, the operators have blocked said domain at the request of Telefónica Audiovisual, who has requested it by mistake“.
According to other sources in the sector, Telefónica Audiovisual, the content production division, requested the blocking of a URL that was broadcasting content without rights belonging to Movistar +. However, instead of targeting specific content, the blocking request went to all of Twitch.tv, through the domain ttvnw.net, which is the one from which the streaming is served.
Although there is no confirmation in this regard, everything indicates that they wanted to block a specific channel but ended up blocking the entire domain. However, this did not prevent the different operators from having to apply the blockade. The resolution of last February of the Commercial Court of Madrid nº7 gives the power to Telefónica Audiovisual Digital to request the rest of the operators to block certain web resources, with the obligation to carry out this block in less than 3 hours.
From Telefónica they explain to Engadget that “they request the blocking of a specific URL about which we have evidence that it is illegally retransmitting TV content. If we do not have evidence, nothing is requested. We are very surgical to avoid impacting others“.
Who is affected and what does the sentence allow Telefónica Audiovisual
The sentence of last February affects, on the one hand, Telefónica Audiovisual and, on the other hand, several operators in Spain: Vodafone, Ono, Orange, MásMóvil, Euskaltel, R Cable, Lycamobile and Telefónica itself. All of them have an obligation to comply with the sentence. This does not affect smaller operators such as Pepephone, SUOP, Adamo or Parlem.
The Madrid court determined the closure of 44 websites and granted Telefónica Audiovisual the possibility of requesting the blocking of websites. This is how he describes it:
“Block, by Internet access Operators, access to pirated websites that Telefónica Audiovisual Digital identifies weekly related to those identified in the sixth point of the factual antecedents, in a new list that will be sent directly by Telefónica Audiovisual Digital to the Internet access operators on a weekly basis.
The blocking of new web resources (URLs, Domains, IP addresses), must be done under access in HTTP and HTTPs protocols, and within a maximum period of three (3) hours from the notification of the new listing “.
As explained by the judge, this weekly list is sent simultaneously to all operators, without identification of recipients of the shipment in mail.
A ruling from last February allows Telefónica Audiovisual to request the blocking of new URLs that they consider to be “pirates”. Within a maximum period of 3 hours, the rest of the operators are obliged to block them.
The measure has a duration subject to the duration of three sports seasons, that is, until May 25, 2022.
From Xataka we have asked Telefónica about the origin of the content that caused the blocking and if it was directly related to the broadcast of football. They have not been able to assure us what content it was, although they tell us that “those of soccer tend to be majority”.
Sources from the rest of the operators explain that this type of request “is common” and that they are “always related to content protected by rights”, in this case in the hands of Telefónica Audiovisual and Movistar +.
A specific error that reveals a serious problem
The blocking of Twitch has revealed the importance and consequences of this sentence. It is no longer just that a simple error can force the blocking of an entire steaming service, but the mere fact that a company like Telefónica Audiovisual and not a judge is the one who has the power to request to block content. Yes, it was a judge who allowed blocking at the beginning, but the introduction of new domains in this weekly list is under the responsibility of Telefónica Audiovisual.
From Xataka we have asked Telefónica Audiovisual for the supervision of these weekly listings, but we have not obtained an answer. A surveillance that cannot be applied from the rest of the operators, since even if they had detected that something was wrong, they cannot avoid implementing the blockade because the sentence obliges them.
The Twitch bug has highlighted the danger of giving a company, rather than a judge, the power to block any website that they deem has no rights.
On the part of the streaming service they have not been able to avoid the blockade either. Twitch sources explain to Engadget that they are happy that the service has been restored and acknowledge that it is a “completely unrelated problem” to the company. Yes OK, at the moment they do not consider taking legal action for possible damages.
It is not the first time that all the contents of a streaming platform have been blocked. In 2007, the Brazilian justice for trying to prevent the dissemination of a video of a model, ordered the entire portal to be blocked. An act that sparked controversy and was classified as censorship.
David Maeztu, a lawyer specializing in internet law and intellectual property, explains several of the problems generated by this sentence: “there are technical and legal problems that I think are quite evident and I don’t know if they have realized it.” On the one hand is the definition of “pirate web”. The ruling allows Telefónica Audiovisual to request the blocking of this type of website, without defining what is considered as such. It seems clear that Twitch.tv is not a “pirate website”, but neither does it specify what the URL that was originally intended to be blocked should comply with.
The ruling does not define what is considered a “pirate website” nor does it offer mechanisms to challenge the decision, but it is already in use and no one has announced the intention to appeal it.
Another of the conflictive points of the measure and that has been revealed with the blocking of Twitch is that those affected do not have any official procedure to challenge Telefónica Audiovisual’s decision. In the case that concerns us now, they contacted us to correct a specific error, but for less clear cases there is no official way to avoid the blockade.
“We have learned that the February agreement is operational and we have found out why there has been this error“Maeztu explains. What content can they block based on this sentence? The lawyer explains to us that any that Telefónica identifies with issues related to football and the rights they have.
“What happens is that could apply or extend to any type of content, as long as the rights holder talks to them and they want to, “he warns.” If I want a video of mine to be removed, I have to apply all kinds of mechanisms. But they are content providers and have all the media lined up to quickly block. “” It is the companies who decide which websites can be seen and which ones cannot, “he says.
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