AirVPN Stops Serving Italians due to “Piracy Shield” Blocking Requirements

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Starting later this month, VPN provider AirVPN will no longer accept Italian customers. This drastic decision is a direct response to the Government's piracy-blocking requirements, enforced through the "Piracy Shield" system. AirVPN says that the requirements are too burdensome, while opening the door to potential overblocking and violations of users' fundamental rights.

airvpnLast December, Italy’s much-debated ‘Piracy Shield’ anti-piracy system went live in a limited capacity.

With a legal challenge thwarted, the blocking efforts are now gearing up, with Internet services as rightsholders’ weapon of choice.

Italy’s telecoms regulator AGCOM is the arbiter and previously declared the technological and procedural rules. In essence, these require ISPs, DNS resolvers, and other intermediaries to block pirate IP-addresses within thirty minutes of being alerted. The leading authority made it clear that VPN services are no exception.

“[A]ll parties in any capacity involved in the accessibility of illegally disseminated content – and therefore also, by way of example and not limitation – VPN and open DNS service providers, will have to execute the blocks requested by the Authority [AGCOM],” the notice read.

AirVPN ‘Blocks’ Italians

Following the announcement, there hasn’t been much response from VPNs, until this week, when AirVPN decided to close its doors to Italian subscribers. The company, which is based in Italy, argues that it has no other option given Piracy Shield’s burdensome requirements.

Instead of having a team available around the clock to implement the latest DNS and IP-address blockades, AirVPN believes that denying all Italians access is the best choice at this time. This policy, requiring all customers to declare that they’re not from Italy, will officially go into effect on February 19.

Part of the problem is that the blockades will have to be implemented within 30 minutes, even if there are clear errors, AirVPN says. Another concern is the absence of a formal judicial review. There is an option to appeal, but only after the blockades are live.

Widespread Blocking

The Piracy Shield system is just getting underway but AirVPN fears that it might ultimately lead to widespread blocking. While AirVPN could technically comply, the company can’t justify the costs.

“[The] requirements are too burdensome for AirVPN, both economically and technically. They are also incompatible with AirVPN’s mission and would negatively impact service performance. They pave the way for widespread blockages in all areas of human activity and possible interference with fundamental rights,” AirVPN staff notes.

“[I]n the past each individual blockade was carefully evaluated either by the judiciary or by the authorities, now any review is completely lost.”


No Other Option

AirVPN believes that ‘Piracy Shield’ gives private entities, often representatives of rightsholders, enormous power. They can order intermediaries to block content without third-party verification, and without having to fear damages or fines for potential mistakes.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, AirVPN’s Paolo Brini says that the company regrets having to take this decision. In addition to practical issues, blocking goes against the company’s core commitments.

“According to our mission and commitments, the end-to-end principle and Net Neutrality should not be violated deliberately in the absence of a proper court order. Furthermore, any block should be brought on with all the safeguards provided by due process,” Brini says.

The VPN company itself remains incorporated in Italy but the company says that it’s is exploring other options too. AirVPN staff sympathize with fellow Italians, suggesting they can still use the Tor network instead. However, AirVPN sees no other option than to ‘leave’ Italy, at least virtually.

“By withdrawing service availability from Italy, AirVPN will be able to stay outside the scope of the framework and maintain integrity and efficient operations,” the company concludes.

At the time of writing, VPNs are not yet directed by AGCOM to take action, but that’s expected to change in the future, following discussions with stakeholders.

As covered earlier today, Italian authorities now say that the Piracy Shield blocking system is now fully operational. The first three official targets are traditional pirate sites;,, and

H/T: Tarnkappe.


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