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Italian comms regulator gets web-blocking powers

By | Published on Thursday 19 December 2013


Italian regulator AGCOM, which loosely translates as the Electronic Communications Authority, has announced that it will assume the power to instigate web-blocks against copyright infringing websites from next April, meaning that rights owners won’t have to pursue civil litigation to gain online blockades.

Web-blocking has, of course, become a key part of the entertainment industry’s anti-piracy work in a handful of countries including the UK, where the music and movie sectors have secured numerous injunctions forcing internet service providers to block the domains of copyright infringing websites, mainly file-sharing communities or BitTorrent search engines.

So called proxy sites, which are usually easy to find on Google, help users to circumvent the blockades, but rights owners say that anything that hinders the online search for unlicensed content is a step in the right direction, plus it’s hoped the web-block notices users see educate the public on which sites are illegal. And some blocked sites have subsequently gone offline, though The Pirate Bay claims that coverage of blocks against its domains usually results in a boost in traffic.

But to date securing web-blocks has required the trade bodies of the content industries to go to court. But from next year in Italy rights owners will be able to submit complaints about copyright infringing sites directly to AGCOM, which will then investigate offending sites and, the regulator says, give the accused operations an opportunity to remove all infringing content, or links to the same. If they fail to do so, ACGOM will then be able to issue web-block notices to ISPs without having to go to court.

The plans were first revealed in October, and were sent to the European Commission for feedback. Although many have previously expressed concern about any anti-piracy system that allows sanctions (web blocking or net disconnection) without the involvement of a judge, European officials have seemingly given their approval to the Italian plans. It’s hoped that the new measures will speed up and simplify the web-block process, making targeting unlicensed file-sharing operations easier in Italy than almost any other country.

The record industry’s global trade body IFPI welcomed the new initiative, with boss Frances Moore telling CMU: “I thank the President of AGCOM, Angelo Cardani, and the authority’s staff for all their hard work in securing the new regulation. The blocking of websites that are dedicated to violating copyright has been demonstrably effective in reducing online infringement in many countries. The new rules make the internet safer for creative content and will help in the development of the legitimate digital music sector in Italy”.

In the UK, when parliament was considering new anti-piracy measures in 2010, a more efficient web-blocking system was basically rejected in favour of a three-strikes programme targeting individual file-sharers, though that programme has famously never actually been activated.