A year and a half ago, we thought this plan was dead in the water
, but apparently while we weren't paying attention, a plan moved forward in Italy to take significant copyright enforcement powers out
of the courts and, instead, give it to the Italian regulator AGCOM. If you want to see a recipe for a bad idea, this is it. Regulators are very much subject to regulatory capture, and a regulatory board entirely focused on copyright enforcement will almost certainly be controlled by maximalists who come from industry, rather than those with the public benefit in mind.
As it stands, the proposal is currently being reviewed by the EU
to see if it complies with EU directives. A ruling in favor of the AGCOM plan would have a huge negative impact on Italy, innovation and culture.
If the initiative of AGCOM goes through, it will create an important precedent in Europe, since the enforcement of copyright in the Internet is normally carried out by courts, not by administrations.
ISPs, consumers, libertarians and experts have vigourosly contested AGCOM’s proposal because it could affect freedom of speech as well as business rights. In particular, they challenge the modality whereby the Italian regulator would supervise and tackle copyright infringements in the Internet by way of orders of removal and blocking. By contrast, rightshodlers associations as well as the Italian Collecting Society SIAE have supported the initiative.
The UN has already expressed its concerns about the proposal, noting that handing free expression controls to a regulatory agency, rather than an elected body, is a serious mistake, because if any content is to be removed from the internet, it should first be reviewed by a court. But the current proposal pretty much dispatches with the courts entirely in many cases, leaving the issues entirely up to regulators. Imagine if the US Copyright Office or the US Patent Office got to determine enforcement of those laws, rather than the courts. It would be a disaster for free expression and innovation -- and yet that's exactly what Italy is seeking to do.
Hopefully, the EU will reject this plan for stifling free expression and removing basic due process within the court system in Italy.