As part of a criminal investigation by Italian authorities, 27 file-sharing related sites had their domains blocked by local ISPs last month. Rapidgator, one of the largest cyberlockers on the Internet, was among the targeted sites and chose to appeal the verdict. This week Rome’s Court of Appeal ruled that the Rapidgator blockade should be lifted as the site’s operators are not responsible for alleged copyright infringements carried out by their users.
In April the Public Prosecutor of Rome targeted a total of 27 file-sharing related sites, including the popular cyberlockers Rapidgator, Uploaded and BitShare.
The sites all had their domains blocked at the ISP level and were rendered inaccessible in Italy. In addition, the prosecutor indicated that he wants to progress the case internationally in pursuit of full-blown domain seizures.
Of the affected sites, Rapidgator was the only one to fight back.
As one of the most visited file-sharing sites on the Internet, Rapidgator has been branded a rogue site before, not least by the U.S. Government. However, the site’s owner believes that he is not breaking any laws.
This week at the Court of Appeal, Rapidgator’s lawyer Fulvio Sarzana contested the prosecutor’s argument that the cyberlocker is responsible for the material its users upload, and the Court agreed.
The Court decided that Rapidgator should be unblocked as the operator(s) can’t be held accountable for files that he doesn’t know exist. Rapidgator’s notice and takedown procedure give the site’s management safe harbor protection.
“The Court gave the example of the lockers in a swimming pool, where the manager of the pool is responsible for what is stored inside the lockers,” Rapidgator lawyer Fulvio Sarzana told TorrentFreak.
The lawyer believes that the decision could have a major impact on the future of website blockades in Italy. “I think it’s an important precedent,” Sarzana says.
“The Court ruled that before ordering a website blockade by Internet providers, the prosecution first has to check whether the rightsholder has done everything possible to removal content from the site.”
The above means that many of the other sites that are currently blocked, including the popular KickassTorrents site, could also take their case to the Court of Appeal. Until then these sites will remain unavailable in Italy.
Rapidgator definitely has something to celebrate, but the legal trouble isn’t over just yet. While the cyberlocker may soon be accessible in Italy, the criminal investigation into the operator(s) of the site continues.