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.