In recent years Italy has taken several far-reaching measures to thwart online piracy, including a nationwide block of The Pirate Bay and BTjunkie. Building forth on this tough stance, lawmakers are now proposing several new measures that will put Internet users at risk of losing their connection after one alleged infringement. Even worse, these copyright complaints can be sent by anyone, not just the copyright holder in question.
In recent years the entertainment industry has been lobbying extensively for tougher anti-piracy legislation. So-called three-strikes policies, where repeat copyright infringers are disconnected from the Internet, are particularly high on their agenda.
France and New Zealand have already signed this three-strikes approach into law, and a recent proposal from the Italian government shows that they are considering doing the same. However, unlike we’ve seen thus far, the Italian plan is not exactly the graduated response that other countries have adopted.
One accusation is all it takes to lose your Internet connection.
The lawmakers suggest two articles that will amend current copyright legislation. Although some of the text is open to interpretation, it is clear that the draft suggests far-reaching anti-piracy measures.
One of the most worrying changes for the public is that Internet providers have to disconnect subscribers upon receiving a single infringement notice. The legitimacy of the notification is not verified and the appeal options appear to be limited. In addition, the proposal also allows “interested patries” who are not the copyright holder to file complaints. To prevent pirates from sneaking back online, ISPs are further required to keep a blacklist of all copyright offenders.
The one-strike disconnection proposal and the backlist are obviously worrying for Italian consumers, but the draft legislation also targets online service providers. For instance, the proposal specifically requires ISPs to censor content deemed to be copyright infringing. If they fail to do so, they face both civil and criminal liability.
In addition, all companies that provide services or sell goods online would have to actively prevent direct or indirect copyright infringement. This could spell trouble for Google, which refers users to a lot of copyrighted material through its search engine and hosts this content on YouTube. Also, it would require companies like eBay to check if users own the copyrights to the goods they sell online.
Needless to say, news of the proposed law has many Italians worried and has also reached Member of European Parliament Marietje Schaake who asked the EU Commission if Italy is allowed to go this far.
“Via the press it has come to my attention that the Italian Parliament is currently considering a draft law by which internet users can be disconnected and blacklisted if they have been accused on an intellectual property infringement. The accusation does not necessarily need to originate from the rights holder of the work in question,” she writes.
Schaake then explains that since the Italian proposal violates several EU laws and principles, she wants to hear the European Commission’s opinion on the issue. Schaake further asked the European Commission whether it’s possible to prevent member states from disconnecting citizens from the Internet.
Earlier this year a report from the UN’s Human Rights Council labeled Internet access a human right, arguing that laws which allow for the disconnection of Internet users are disproportionate and should be repealed. Nevertheless, it appears that the Italian lawmakers are determined to push their plan forward.