Time For Google To Leave Italy? Italy Announces That YouTube Responsible For All Content

from the it's-not-tv dept

Not this again. The Italian government has long had trouble comprehending how YouTube is simply a platform for users. Of course, some might say this is willful ignorance. Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns Italy’s largest private broadcaster, Mediaset, and doesn’t much like the competition. In fact, back in 2008, Mediaset sued Google over its content appearing on YouTube, and a year ago, an Italian court (surprise, surprise) sided with Berlusconi and ordered YouTube to remove all Mediaset content, though it doesn’t explain how YouTube is to know what is and what is not infringing. Of course, this is also the same country where a politician wanted to sue thousands of YouTube commenters for making fun of him under a video on YouTube. And, most famously, Italy is the country that bizarrely and inconceivably found Google execs criminally liable for a video posted to Google Video.

The latest in the Italian government’s war against YouTube is that it’s declared that YouTube qualifies as a TV station and is subject to television regulations (Google translation of the original Italian, found via Slashdot). What this means is that not only will YouTube/Google have to pay a tax as a TV broadcaster, but it now has other regulatory controls, including an obligation to publish “corrections” within 48 hours to anyone who claims they were slandered, and an obligation to not broadcast “inappropriate” content during times when children might watch.

But, of course, the biggest issue is that it says that if there’s any editiorial control, even automated (so I assume the “favorites” or “recommended” lists count), suddenly, YouTube becomes liable for all of the content. In other words, in order to help Berlusconi win his lawsuit against YouTube, Italian politicians have effectively changed the law to make sure that YouTube is now liable for the content of third party users. This effectively means that the risk of running such a platform in Italy becomes ridiculously high. I imagine Google will fight this in the courts, but at some point, it makes you wonder if Google wouldn’t just be better off leaving Italy altogether, and seeing how folks there feel about its government’s decisions.

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Companies: google, mediaset, youtube

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Comments on “Time For Google To Leave Italy? Italy Announces That YouTube Responsible For All Content”

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52 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Talk about FUD

This is classic TechDirt right here:

in order to help Berlusconi win his lawsuit against YouTube, Italian politicians have effectively changed the law to make sure that YouTube is now liable for the content of third party users

I agree with the sentiment that this policy is a horrible idea that could jeopardize innovation on the internet. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone suggesting such a policy is inherently evil. I am willing to bet that you have absolutely no basis on which to conclude that this AGCOM announcement is any way related to Mediaset’s lawsuit. This is just classic FUD and is sadly all too typical of TechDirt commentary. Anyone that disagrees with Mike is always castigated as having ulterior motives.

Mike, do you bother to do any research before you make allegations like this? I’m guessing no. If you had done even 5 minutes of research you would realize that Burlosconi has no authority over AGCOM. Unlike (most) agencies in the US, AGCOM is a controlled by the Parliament. A moment of research would also have revealed that Burlosconi is quite unpopular in the Italian Parliament at the moment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mollusconi never ceases to amaze, he is using the government to make his business indestructible and it is even fighting with the judiciary for control.

Mollusconi enact a lot of laws, most of it by threatening others, now the most impressive thing is that although people don’t like him there is apparently nobody else less corrupt, that is just unbelievable.

Jay says:

*rolls eyes*

Look, stop with the rhetoric please. There’s a few things going on here. First, if any government is having a problem with third party liability, Mike calls them on it.

FUD happens when you have no facts to back up your opinion. I think Mike is doing that quite well. Thank you for expanding on some of it, but perhaps next time, you can keep the speculative paragraph elsewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

http://torrentfreak.com/5-anti-piracy-strategies-designed-to-hurt-torrent-sites-in-2011-110102/

The combined might of the MPAA and IFPI, with almost limitless funding and the ears of politicians worldwide, has failed miserably to take The Pirate Bay offline. Their lawyers couldn?t do it and their friends in government assisted by their friends in the Swedish police department couldn?t do it either.

Happy 2011!

Richard (profile) says:

Re:

This story gives more to my theory that 2011 will be a serious day of reckoning for online services who thought they were exempt from the rule of the countries they choose to operate in.

No it gives more to my theory that 2011 will be a serious day of reckoning for politicians who thought they could write laws (at the suggestion of big business) without reference to the wishes of the ordinary population and small businesses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

The difficulty in reading TD at times is that the FUD is intentional, mixing fact and opinion together to create factoids, that are referenced later as facts to go together with other opinions to create, well, factoidois, I guess. Over time, the fact part gets smaller and smaller, and more of the discussion is based on the opinions that have been woven together to create a sort of alternate universe.

The magic words of TD are “we have already shown that”. Trust me when I say the next time Italy is mentioned, there will be the old “we have already shown how the president…” pointing to this story.

It creates a sort of deny-ability for TD. The work required to go back step after step to find out where fact was replaced with opinion is no longer worth it.

AJ says:

Re:

“The difficulty in reading TD at times is that the FUD is intentional, mixing fact and opinion together to create factoids, that are referenced later as facts to go together with other opinions to create, well, factoidois, I guess. Over time, the fact part gets smaller and smaller, and more of the discussion is based on the opinions that have been woven together to create a sort of alternate universe.”

WOW… replace TD with any of the AA’s and I think you’ve nailed it… nice!

ALANTONE (profile) says:

Talk about FUD

It is a well know fact that Berlusconi has taken advantage of his political position to take control of most private channels and with indirectly controling of state channels. (I have a bad habit of reading European newspapers)

Therefore the person who would profit the most by locking out or controling Youtube would be Berlusconi. So Mike was right on target with this post.

PDB (profile) says:

I’m an italian reader of TD.
Berlusconi is an anomaly in all possible senses. Main examples could be him having factual control on 2 of the 3 branches of the state – legislative and executive – and attacking the judicial power every other day throughout the media. Or as well, controlling the media in the first place, from the papers to the TV, with a massive influence on the state televisions, besides his own channels which are basically as powerful.

On AGCOMs independency – AGCOMs members are elected among the members of the parliament, with the president being nominated by the prime minister, so you cant really consider it an independent agency. On a side note, some of its members, as far as I can remember, belong to Berlunsconi’s party. Im not very well informed on this but apparently its representation mirrors the political forces in the parliament.

But anyhoo, what I guess is most important, the regulation doesnt address YouTube alone, but all user generated content broadcasting services that meet the criteria (a turnover of at least ?100.000, and a weekly broadcasting schedule of at least 24 hours).

I dont think the regulation will sort much effect eventually, I think this may conflict ECs directives which Im currently too lazy to look up.

Seven Star Hand (profile) says:

They are trying to set the stage...

Elements in the Italian government are controlled by the Vatican and Berlusconi was their boy, until the rats started jumping ship recently. The evidence of in-fighting is hard to hide now. They are struggling to set the stage for a defense against me, but that has already failed.

Wikileaks and Youtube just happen to be the proxies of choice for now because coming directly after me exposes the truth about who the Vatican really is to their followers. Find me on YouTube to see what really scares the Bejesus out of the Vatican’s hand picked politicians. That all ends soon though. Google leaving Italy would serve the Vatican’s purposes of hiding certain details from Italians who are going to react very badly when they learn the truth…

Jay says:

Re:

I’m not sure how it’s FUD and less opinion when an article already exists that explains the position described of Mike.

If anything, a quick Google search describes just as accurately the very same things that Mike might have discussed.

Seriously, I found this in 5 seconds. Does this put Berlusconi in a good light? No… It shows that perhaps Italy needs a change in government. I understand that you want to take some of the info with a grain of salt, but I’d rather have someone show me their line of reasoning than merely say “I believe this and no one can convince me”

Fred says:

and then?

Yes, Google should leave Italy and hand every other government in the world a clear blueprint on how to sue this company out of their country. I can think of a few governments that would want to do it.

Do you really think populations will rebel and take to the streets over some video-sharing site or even a spam-ridden search engine? You’re kidding yourselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Jay, his legal issues are relevant only that we know he is pretty much pushing the legal limits in all cases. But this situation is run by an organization he does not control or have power over. It is a very big assumption (and opinion only) that he has somehow done this himself.

This is the problem. I don’t mind that TD expresses an opinion, only that the opinion has clearly stated as opinion, and doesn’t come off as sour grapes because the guy is peeing on TD’s favorite open the information universe innocent host logic.

Seven Star Hand (profile) says:

and then?

Google, Youtube, and Wikileaks are merely conduits for the (mostly) unfettered access to information. What those in power in Italy and elsewhere fear is “some” of the content that certain freethinkers have been able to post. Spam and other crap actually serves their purpose by serving as a distraction.

As far as people taking to the streets, well that would be their choice. But when they go to the web and inform others about the truth concerning the lies that have been used to dupe and oppress billions for centuries, the “old guard” goes apoplectic and acts rashly, just as any cornered animal responds. You can’t speak truthfully about Italian politics without understanding the Vatican’s role.

Andrew says:

Score 1 big point for service provider responsibility online. Service providers have responsibility for what they distribute in real life. Why shouldn’t they have responsibility online?

I think this is great news.

If YouTube can’t find a business model that doesn’t involve piracy, maybe it is their business model that “needs to adapt”?

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re:

I assume that you feel the same way about telephone companies, both land-based and wireless? If I break a law, even a civil one, should they also shoulder the responsibility if their service is what allowed me to break the law?

Something tells me you’re one of those people that don’t think things through when it comes to “…on the internet”.

Mike says:

Re:

I wasn’t aware that telephone companies are enabling the widespread piracy of billions of dollars worth of creative industry. What percent of individuals use their land line to make illegal phone calls? What percent of individuals use their ISP to make illegal data transfers?

They aren’t remotely comparable in size, scale, or effect.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re:

I wasn’t aware that telephone companies are enabling the widespread piracy of billions of dollars worth of creative industry.

Verizon will be pleased with your ignorance.

What percent of individuals use their land line to make illegal phone calls?

What percent of individuals use their ISP to make illegal data transfers?

It is clear you have lost all sight of reality. If someone calls your house and threatens to kill your family– a very serious crime– you don’t think it warrants the service provider to take independent action. However, someone might upload a clip from Whose Line is it Anyway onto youtube and “holy fucking shit, we need this to stop right now, let’s have everyone’s ISPs police the entire internet right fucking now!!!!!oneoneone!!!three”

Give me a break.

illegal data transfers

Tell me, my friend, from a third party point of view: How can one tell the difference between “legal” and “illegal” data. I can’t wait to read this! 🙂

They aren’t remotely comparable in size, scale, or effect.

Yes, someone might copy a song 1 MILLION times. What’s 1 Million plus infinity again? Infinity? Well. Seems tiny, in size, scale *and* effect.

Johnny says:

Get out of Italy

Google should pull YouTube out of Italy, as long as nothing is hosted there*, it’s a service running in the USA, then Italy has as much say about it as it does about anything else operating in the US. If Italy wants to block Italians from viewing YouTube they should do it themselves.

* Much like they pulled out of China but stayed in Hong Kong.

European says:

Re:

You totally forget everything google does, Android/Android Market/Google Apps/Gmail etc. It would really mess up the infrastructure for many people if Google just would close the access.

Yeah for search they would use bing, but still getting cut of from email and Italy and italian websites removed form google would be really bad for the country economy 🙂

herbert says:

the Italians had the chance very recently of getting rid of Berlusconi, but voted to let him remain in office. perhaps this move will spur them to try again! this action is as bad as what the entertainment industries are slowly doing worldwide, ie preserving monopolies, stifling innovation and creativity and removing competition. save money, Google. get out of Italy and see what happens then!

Mike says:

Re:

If a telephone user uses the line to break the law by making murder threats, the police will appropriately deal with the problem. The telephone company will cooperate with wiretaps or any other necessary step to make this happen.

On the other hand, if a YouTube user uses the service to break the law, no one will do anything. YouTube will sit on their ass and twiddle their thumbs. The user won’t face any consequences. And the party whose rights are violated will just have to sit there and take it.

Again, how are those remotely comparable?

As for legal vs illegal content, that is YouTube’s problem. No one forced them to embrace a business model that is impossible for them to moderate effectively.

Maybe they should learn to adapt.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re:

*sigh* For someone who feels so strongly about this, you don’t seem to have a very firm grasp on it.

If a telephone user uses the line to break the law by making murder threats, the police will appropriately deal with the problem. The telephone company will cooperate with wiretaps or any other necessary step to make this happen.

I suppose you haven’t heard of the DMCA. It, among other things, allows someone who feels that their copyrights are being infringed, to simply alert the service provider, who will then take down the *allegedly* infringing material. Without a trial, a judge, a warrant, or hell, even any proof that they actually hold the copyrights to the allegedly infringing material. It is worth pointing out, in case it isn’t immediately obvious to you, that this is *easier* than the scenario you have described above with the telephone company.

On the other hand, if a YouTube user uses the service to break the law, no one will do anything. YouTube will sit on their ass and twiddle their thumbs. The user won’t face any consequences. And the party whose rights are violated will just have to sit there and take it.

Go ahead and reread what I just wrote above, to give it a better chance of sinking in. Don’t forget to click on the pretty blue words.

Again, how are those remotely comparable?

You’re right, of course, in that they aren’t. It’s way easier to remedy an alleged copyright infringement than it is death threats on a telephone. I’m not sure that’s the point you wanted to show, though. Sorry about that, pal.

As for legal vs illegal content, that is YouTube’s problem. No one forced them to embrace a business model that is impossible for them to moderate effectively.

I suppose the fact that a company has taken YouTube to court over videos that the company itself put on YouTube is completely lost on you. If different parts of the same damn company can’t tell the difference, then there is no way for a third party to do it.

Maybe they should learn to adapt.

Practice what you preach? 🙂

hmm says:

well

google pulls out of Italy entirely…..
The termination of googles massive cross-europe infrastructure disrupts a good portion of the internet across italy…..
Most ISPs in Italy suddenly lose their ENTIRE email system since most now just license and rebrand gmail systems….
Italians begin to access youtube and google by “other” means putting a massive strain on the rest of the italian backbone system.
Due to the sudden shift in traffic, surfing pretty much grinds to a halt and italians begin to cancel their ISP contracts as its pointless having a connection that takes 30mins+ just to load a simple text page……
ISPs begin to go under…..

USAinEurope (profile) says:

PM Silvio Berlusconi

Dear AC
What do you do if you have all the money in the world, is 77 years old ( helied about being only 70) and are a sef made man that cna do anything you want?
PM Berlusconi proved to be stupid just by remainingunder the ribalta lights.
You tube is being blamed in Italy AND Mexico by local MAFIAS as a vehicle being used to acquire and dissiminate information about kidnaping prospects.
MAFIAs want to shut down Utube in Italy and Mexico.
Primo Berlusca likes MONEY and GIRLS not controversy.
He is a character and I’d rather have him as a President than “in bed with the same crowd” Oshama!
Have a nice week-end everybody
P.S> I’m Italian descendent fell fre to call me gumba, no offense taken! Oh Gramma is jewish if that helps you get wired!):

Marco Ermini says:

Talk about FUD

“If you had done even 5 minutes of research you would realize that Burlosconi has no authority over AGCOM. Unlike (most) agencies in the US, AGCOM is a controlled by the Parliament.”

If you had a clue about what you were talking about, and you read any Italian newspaper, you would know that Belusconi owns the Italian Parliament, to the extent of going to shopping for MPs votes whenever he needs them. He owns AGCOM as much as he owns 90% of TV channels, good part of newspapers and both their advertisements (so basically owns them all).

What chances do you think that AGCOM can be slightly independent from Berlusconi? only someone totally biased or totally misinformed may believe so.

Have a nice day (and thanks Mike)

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