IPTV Blocking System Survives: “Crafty People Thwarted,” Says Serie A CEO

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A legal challenge against Italy's incoming Piracy Shield IPTV blocking system is dismissed by a local court. An ISP association had voiced a range of concerns, from disproportionate costs for smaller providers to potential liability for overblocking. The CEO of football league Serie A, which is likely to benefit most from the system, welcomed the court's decision. "The usual crafty people have been thwarted," he said.

Piracyshield-logoTo a background of seemingly unstoppable corporate and political momentum, challenging the introduction of Italy’s much-heralded pirate IPTV blocking system was always a long shot.

In April 2023, months before the legal foundations were finally set in stone, a trade group that represents the interests of small to medium-sized ISPs, sent a memorandum to the authorities detailing its concerns.

President of Assoprovider, Giovanni Zorzoni, said he feared the proposed blocking system would introduce a single susceptible ‘point of failure’ with the potential to undermine national infrastructure.

The ‘Mega-Firewall‘ of Italy, as he described it, could also expose ISPs to liability and that would mean end users picking up the bill. When the proposals became law, Zorzoni raised the alarm once again on behalf of smaller ISPs, warning that ‘Piracy Shield’ implementation costs could reach 300,000 euros per year, per ISP.

Assoprovider’s Legal Challenge

With Zorzoni’s warnings of potential job losses in the sector falling on deaf ears, last October Assoprovider launched a legal challenge against the regulations underpinning the introduction of the Piracy Shield system and their implementation by telecoms regulator AGCOM.

The Regional Administrative Court for Lazio published its 47-page judgment this week. Assoprovider was always likely to face an uphill battle and those that came out in opposition ensured that was the case, and then some.

The ISP organization knew it had to take on AGCOM but then came the interventions; local anti-piracy group FAPAV backed by powerful international entertainment industries, top tier football league Serie A, and Serie B for good measure.

Court Rejects Challenge

In broad terms, the court found that the regulations were put in place for the protection of copyright and since that goal is in the public interest, the Piracy Shield system will indeed go ahead. Concerns that mistakes will inevitably get made as rightsholders scramble to block pirate platforms within 30 minutes, were dismissed.

The court said that the 30-minute deadline had been put in place for a reason; football matches and other sporting events are relatively short, so any violations of intellectual property rights must be tackled quickly to ensure the system is effective.

The fact that the Piracy Shield system was donated to AGCOM by Serie A, the football league likely to benefit most from the new anti-piracy regime, wasn’t considered an issue either. Serie A’s ‘donation’ of the platform will ultimately benefit everyone according to the league; the Court found no grounds to disagree on that matter or indeed any of the objections raised in Assoprovider’s challenge.

Court “Demolished” The Appeal

Anti-piracy group FAPAV welcomed the Court’s decision, describing it as “an important step for the protection of copyright and the fight against online piracy, especially for live content.” FAPAV said the judgment reinforces the legitimacy of the anti-piracy system, which is “fully compatible” with the constitutional and European legislative frameworks.

“Assoprovider’s appeal had no grounds as there are no real dangers for providers in carrying out the new procedure, furthermore the platform has been positively tested in the previous months,” FAPAV added.

Luigi De Siervo, CEO of Serie A, said the judgment “demolishes Assoprovider’s appeal” and shows that Serie A’s donation of Piracy Shield was “perfectly legitimate and will act to the benefit of the entire system.” Piracy Shield will block pirate streams within 30 minutes as planned, De Siervo said, despite this detour through the Court.

“We have also thwarted the latest attempt by the ‘usual crafty people’ to block the entry into action of the anti-piracy platform. We expect that, after months of waiting, the ‘machine to machine’ system will finally come into operation in February, which will allow pirate sites reported by rights holders to be quickly interrupted,” the Serie A chief added.

The judgment of the Lazio court is available here (pdf)


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