Blocking Pirate Sites Without a Trial is Allowed, Italian Court Rules

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Italy's pirate site blocking regulation is not unconstitutional, or in violation of copyright law, the administrative court of Lazio has ruled. The verdict has been celebrated by rightsholders who have used the blocking mechanism to target hundreds of websites. Consumer rights organizations, however, are not happy with the outcome and plan an appeal.

Website blockades are becoming more common throughout Europe, with Italy taking a particularly active approach.

In recent months hundreds of domain names have been added to the nation’s pirate blocklist, based on complaints from a wide range of copyright holders.

It is not just the numbers that set Italy apart, the blocking mechanism itself is unique as well. To have a website blocked, rightsholders can ask the local telecoms watchdog AGCOM to issue an order, without need for a trial.

Instead of dealing with blockades in court, AGCOM has the power to grant injunctions without judicial overview, which it does on a regular basis.

The regulation hasn’t been without controversy. Soon after it was introduced several consumer rights groups and other organizations challenged it in court, arguing that it’s unconstitutional.

The case was initially rejected by the Constitutional Court in 2015, which referred it back to the administrative court of Lazio. Last week this court decided that the site blocking procedure is in line with both European and Italian law.

According to the court, the site-blocking regulation is compatible with the European Union’s E-Commerce Directive as well as the Italian Copyright Act. In addition, the procedure doesn’t violate the Italian constitution or fundamental rights in general, as opponents had argued.

Overall the case is seen as a significant victory for copyright holders. Not only can they continue with their site-blocking requests, but the court also clarified that all the blocking costs must be paid by Internet providers.

“This is a big win for rightsholders,” says Enzo Mazza, chief of the Italian music group FIMI, who says that they have plans to expand the current scope of the blocking efforts.

“Our future goal is now to increase the enforcement of AGCOM to also cover new forms of piracy such as live streaming, stream ripping and similar issues. In addition, we hope AGCOM will extend the blockades to the IP-address level as the Criminal Courts are using now,” Mazza tells TorrentFreak.

The consumer groups are disappointed, but lawyer Fulvio Sarzana tells TorrentFreak that this outcome was expected considering the previous stance of the judges. However, he also notes that the battle has only just begun and that the case will be appealed.

“It is important to know that there will be an appeal represented by the State Council and that, should it be confirmed in that case, there is always the possibility of acting in front of the greatest judicial order in Italy, the Court of Cassation,” Sarzana says.

For his part, FIMI’s boss is positive that the current verdict will be upheld in future cases. Meanwhile, Mazza and his organization will continue to push for more and broader blockades.

A copy of the verdict, in Italian, is available here (pdf).

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