Italian ISPs Ruled Not Responsible For File-Sharing Customers

The far-reaching demands of an anti-piracy group working on behalf of the movie industry have been rejected by a judge. Federazione Anti-Pirateria Audiovisiva wanted ISP Telecom Italia to take unprecedented action against file-sharing subscribers, but the court decided that the ISP couldn't be held responsible for the actions of its customers.

After failing to bring online piracy under control by other methods, the music and movie industries have been increasingly turning to the courts to force ISPs into action against their own customers.

In Italy, movie anti-piracy group Fapav (Federazione Anti-Pirateria Audiovisiva) went to court in an attempt to compel Italy’s largest ISP, Telecom Italia, to take unprecedented action against subscribers FAPAV say are infringing their members’ copyrights.

In a April 15th ruling that has just been made public, Judge Antonella Izzo largely rejected FAPAV’s demands.

FAPAV wanted the court to force Telecom Italia to monitor its users, report those who file-share to the authorities, and block them along with a range of web locations including BitTorrent sites The Pirate Bay, 1337x and isoHunt. FAPAV had also called for fines of 10,000 euros per day if Telecom Italia refused to comply.

But in a big blow for FAPAV, Judge Izzo ruled that Internet service providers cannot be held responsible for the material carried over their networks and rejected calls for user and site blocking. The demand that huge fines should be imposed on Telecom Italia for non-compliance was also rejected.

The decision was welcomed by the rest of Italy’s Internet service providers, who had feared the implications for their businesses should the case have gone FAPAV’s way.

FAPAV didn’t come away from the case entirely empty-handed though. It achieved token success when the judge ruled that ISPs should pass on copyright infringement complaints from rightsholders to the local prosecutor, rather than the current position where the rightsholders have to do that themselves.

After years spent souring relationships with their customers through legal action, one has to wonder about the extent of the damage now being done to the relationships between the entertainment industries and Internet service providers. Will the worldwide tour of expensive and damaging litigation against them continue, or will changes in the law negate the need for that approach? Time will tell.

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