Italian Public Prosecutor Says File-Sharing Site Is 'Receiving Stolen Goods'
from the copying-is-not-theft dept
Sites that share unauthorized copies of various kinds of digital files are hardly news, and neither are attempts to shut them down. But a recent case in Italy breaks fresh ground here:
The Milan public prosecutor has ordered the seizure of assets of the Avaxhome "digital newsstand", a portal for "sharing" newspapers, books, comics and music DVDs. The claim of receiving stolen goods against the site was validated by the investigating magistrate in Milan after a complaint by Italian publishing group Mondadori in June. The website is based in Russia, and Italian ISPs have now blocked access to the site.
Since the site is based in Russia, seizing its assets might prove tricky. But what makes this decision important is the fact that the public prosecutor in Milan has gone beyond finding that the site infringes on copyright, and deemed it to be "receiving stolen goods" -- a far more serious charge.
As Fulvio Sarzana, the author of the blog post quoted above and lawyer for the Italian ISP association, explains (original in Italian):
"This seizure is a serious problem because for the first time in Italy and in the world putting copies of articles on the Web is considered to be receiving stolen property and not only infringement of copyright." According to the lawyer, "the risk is that from now on anyone whoever puts copies of articles on the Web will see their site closed and be on the receiving end of a charge that equates this case to that of a car thief."
Sarzana says that the Italian ISP association will appeal, so it's not certain that this dangerous equivalence will stand. But it's a worrying prospect that copyright infringement might be routinely equated to theft in this way, since the two are completely different for reasons that have been discussed many times here on Techdirt.