The Italian Supreme Court has ruled that ISPs can be forced to block BitTorrent sites, even if they are not hosted in Italy or operated by Italian citizens. According to the decision by the Supreme Court, sites offering torrent files that link to copyrighted material are engaging in criminal activity.
The Supreme Court ruling follows a nationwide block of The Pirate Bay In August 2008, when a decree from a public prosecutor instructed ISPs to censor the site. As a result, millions of Italians were banned from accessing the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker.
The Pirate Bay chose to appeal the decision and won the court case. The Court of Bergamo ruled that no foreign website can be censored for alleged copyright infringement and the block was lifted. However, two months ago the Supreme Court nullified this victory, opening up the possibility for anti-piracy groups to censor The Pirate Bay and many other torrent sites in Italy.
This week the Supreme Court detailed its decision. According to the verdict, BitTorrent sites that host torrent files are playing a significant role in the downloading and uploading process of their users. By doing so they are more than an agnostic search engine such as Google.
The fact that a site is not hosted in Italy or operated by Italians is irrelevant according to the court. The site is visited by many Italians who (in part) use it to share copyrighted material, the Supreme Court argued.
With this verdict in hand, copyright holders can now request The Pirate Bay and other BitTorrent sites to be filtered by Internet service providers. The Pirate Bay is first in line, as its case has now been sent back to the Court of Bergamo.
Pirate Bay lawyers Giovanni Battista Gallus, Giuseppe Campanelli and Francesco Micozzi have informed TorrentFreak that the site will remain accessible for now. “There will be another hearing before the Court of Bergamo,” they told us, “which will have to decide again whether to block The Pirate Bay in Italy or not.”
“We will go again before the Court of Bergamo, where we will have ample grounds to defend The Pirate Bay,” the lawyers noted, adding “And we could even appeal the new decision before the Supreme Court.”
The Supreme Court decision has nevertheless set a dangerous precedent. If The Pirate Bay loses its case it is expected that many other BitTorrent sites will face a shutdown order in the future.