Italian Court Says Due Process Isn't Necessary For Blocking Sites Over Copyright Infringement

from the zoom-zoom! dept

A years-long fight in Italy between copyright rightsholders (chiefly Hollywood) and consumer groups looking to protect Italian citizens, took a dark turn recently. If you aren’t already aware, the Italian government put in place a delightful regulation in 2014 giving the Authority for Comunications Guarantees (AGCOM) the authority to simply block websites deemed infringing outright, without the need for such pesky things as court cases or trials. Consumer groups immediately challenged the regulation, stating that it violated the Italian constitution, specifically suggesting that giving a government body the authority to unilaterally block websites without any sort of judicial review was a violation of the exercise of freedom of expression and economic initiative. Given exactly how often demonized websites are demonstrated to have perfectly legitimate uses, not to mention how absolutely terrible every government everywhere seems to be in understanding and protecting things like Fair Use, it’s an easy argument to understand.

Unfortunately, an administrative court in Italy has chosen to take itself out of the judicial review business when it comes to site-blocking.

The case was initially rejected by the Constitutional Court in 2015, which referred it back to the administrative court of Lazio. Last week this court decided that the site blocking procedure is in line with both European and Italian law. According to the court, the site-blocking regulation is compatible with the European Union’s E-Commerce Directive as well as the Italian Copyright Act. In addition, the procedure doesn’t violate the Italian constitution or fundamental rights in general, as opponents had argued.

Overall the case is seen as a significant victory for copyright holders. Not only can they continue with their site-blocking requests, but the court also clarified that all the blocking costs must be paid by Internet providers.

In other words, it’s now open season on sites that rightsholders decide they don’t like. No need for a trial in which to prove any actual allegations. No need to prepare a rebuttal from a defendant arguing for their own rights. Instead, rightsholders, such as Hollywood, can petition to have a site blocked and, if AGCOM agrees, the site is blocked without any due process. And, because ISPs are apparently there only to serve failing business models, all the costs associated with these review-less blocks are shouldered by the ISPs.

If you think that the copyright trolls and Hollywood aren’t licking their chops to go site-blocking crazy after this decision, you’ve lost your mind.

“This is a big win for rightsholders,” says Enzo Mazza, chief of the Italian music group FIMI, who says that they have plans to expand the current scope of the blocking efforts.

“Our future goal is now to increase the enforcement of AGCOM to also cover new forms of piracy such as live streaming, stream ripping and similar issues. In addition, we hope AGCOM will extend the blockades to the IP-address level as the Criminal Courts are using now,” Mazza tells TorrentFreak.

And away we go. Licensing groups and rightsholders will now look to slam open the door the court left ajar for them. As the blocks are expanded, you can pretty much count on collateral damage that will harm Italian citizens and restrict their freedom both of speech and access to legitimate internet sites. But no worry, because it’s not like there is a court that will oversee all of this. Instead, websites and the surfing public will live only at the pleasure of AGCOM.

That should go well.

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Comments on “Italian Court Says Due Process Isn't Necessary For Blocking Sites Over Copyright Infringement”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Such lovely priorities

No need for a trial, or any oversight at all, just a flat declaration of guilt of the accused, punishment to be carried out immediately, and to stay in effect unless the accused is willing to spend the time and money to fight back.

Nice to know Italy has fully jumped on the Copyright Is The Most Important Thing In Existence train and decided that whole ‘innocent until proven guilty in a court of law’ rubbish can be rightly discarded if that’s what it takes to ‘protect’ said Most Important Thing In Existence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

this will be abused and the IP holders will be the ones suffering from this ruling.
The MPAA will continue to release to cinemas, and then on DVD’s, while the RIAA hope for a resurgence of CD sales. The cable companies do not need the Internet to deliver content, while newspapers and book publishers will still sell printed copies. All these industries would be happy if the Internet went away, well at least until they are lined up against the wall. by a revolution.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ah if only…

No, the ‘shoot first, ask questions never’ power isn’t granted to the general public, only AGCOM, who you can be sure will carefully scrutinize and/or ignore anything targeting the major players, even while they blindly go after any site not in their ranks with an indifference to collateral damage that would make a sociopathic warmonger envious.

mr. sim (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

the fact of the matter is even though this power is not meant for the general public there will be some hacker teen or something who finds a way to abuse this. people swore up and down for years the dcma proponents said it couldnt be abused on a large scale and then a 16 year old kid used it to take down four major store chains websites for laughs and now it’s routinely being done

aerinai says:

Wait for it...

Once one of these companies piss off Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. with a blanket ban on their site, that’ll wake people up to how horribly dumb this idea is.

I would love for one of these copyright mafia companies to request a block on Google for a day and have Google countersue for losses of millions of dollars (given that is a reality and they would have standing).

Time will tell… Keep in mind this is the same country to prosecute scientists over a prediction of seismic activity… So this isn’t all that surprising…

Anonymous Coward says:

nothing more important then than the entertainment industries! and who still thinks the net isn’t going to be run eventually by them?? every government and legal system is falling over themselves to give it to the industries just so everyone can be spied on under the pretence of making sure there’s no illegal downloading going on!!

Daydream says:

So clarify something for me...

What exactly is a website defined as in these blocking provisions?
And, how can those terms best be used against ‘rights-holders’?

If they’re defined as an address, can we put up roadblocks to block physical traffic to their office buildings?
If the definition involves something-something Internet, can we rename the internet?

My_Name_Here says:

If you look at Italy, you are looking at a countries that is well known for systemic corruption from top to bottom. From governments that spend without concern to politicians breaking the law to individuals and companies cheating on their taxes, those are places that are at or neat the top of the lists when it comes to corruption.

…Wait, you mean they ruled in favor of copyright enforcement? Then that is good, carry on.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

If you look at copyright, you are looking at an area of law that is well known for systemic corruption from top to bottom. From lobbyists who campaign for indiscriminate blocking without concern for the public interest to hypocritical maximalists breaking the law to individuals and companies cheating artists out of the royalties owed them, that is one of the systems that are at or near the top of the lists when it comes to corruption.

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