Measures to Black Out Pirate Sites Unanimously Approved

Measures proposed by Italy’s independent Electronic Communications Authority to tackle 'pirate' sites and their owners have passed with unanimous approval. The new system, which mandates the speedy removal of copyrighted content by hosts and the blocking of file-sharing sites by ISPs, will come into force on March 31 2014. Uploaders of infringing content and service providers who fail to take action face penalties of up to 250,000 euros.

Italy has been accused of not doing enough to tackle the issue of online piracy in the past but in recent times the country has been making an effort to make the climate more difficult for file-sharing sites.

Many of the world’s leading sites, such as The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, are already blocked at the ISP level following orders from various courts. However, going to court can be a drawn out affair and rightsholders have always been keen to short-cut the process with something more streamlined.

Thanks to AGCOM, Italy’s independent Electronic Communications Authority, they are well on their way.

Earlier this year AGCOM drafted new regulations that would allow it to order a domain seizure or ISP blockade of any site that fails to remove infringing content in a timely manner. AGCOM’s proposals envisaged a 72-hour window for websites and ISPs to process takedown notices, which is similar to the system currently in place in Russia.

Unlike under the old system, all this would be achieved without a court order. Only adding fuel to the ‘lack of due process’ fire is the fact that AGCOM introduced these rules through an administrative process, without a hearing in Parliament.

Nevertheless, on Thursday the proposals passed by unanimous vote, thereby heralding the introduction of an efficient process for dealing with unauthorized content and for punishing sites beyond Italy’s borders.

After consulting with the European Commission certain requirements for removing content have been adjusted (only working days will be counted) and it was also established that ISPs are not obliged to carry out Deep Packet Inspection. Some other technical details aside, the bulk of the measures remain intact.

“Today marks a new era for Italian culture,” said Marco Polillo, president of Confindustria Cultura Italia.

“We consider this a landmark victory against the pirates of Italian culture and those who support them. Now we can happily work with information and communications technology companies to develop new business models and increase the supply of Italian cultural production.”

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Enzo Mazza, president of Italian anti-piracy group FIMI, says the new mechanism to clamp down on pirate sites will be much better than the old one.

“The system will be very useful in speeding up the blocking of foreign sites,” Mazza explains.

“Italy already has a criminal procedure in place where public prosecutors have ordered the blocking of at least 18 major international rogue sites, but the ordinary criminal procedure can sometimes take months before an order is issued. AGCOM will solve this in a few weeks or less. It’s a very significant improvement.”

Despite many top file-sharing sites already being blocked in Italy, Mazza says there is still room for more and some may even require additional action.

“Any international pirate site is on the list. It’s not a secret that we will focus on any available target. We will review our records and decide what line will be more appropriate regarding a specific target. There are sites that just need to be blocked and sites where a more detailed criminal case will be the best option. AGCOM and criminal actions can be used in parallel,” Mazza concludes.

Once the mechanism gets properly underway in April 2014, Italy will have the toughest anti-piracy regime in Europe. Only time will tell the effect it has on the downloading habits of locals.

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