Italy Plans to Wipe Out Pirate Sites and Expose Owners

Italy’s independent Electronic Communications Authority is planning to take drastic action against pirate sites and their operators. The organization submitted a draft regulation to the European Commission which allows for blockades and seizures of websites that fail to respond to a takedown notice within three days. In addition, the telecoms regulator will instruct local and foreign Internet providers to identify the operators of the alleged pirate sites.

pirate-runningThe best known notice and takedown process on the Internet is the United States’ DMCA law, which celebrated its fifteenth anniversary yesterday.

The DMCA has a strict set of rules that defines how copyright holders and content providers should deal with pirated content. This works well as long as all parties play by the rules, which is unfortunately not always the case.

The entertainment industries in particular often complain about foreign sites that ignore their takedown requests. While the DMCA provides no remedy against this negligence, a new notice and takedown procedure introduced in Italy will.

AGCOM, Italy’s independent Electronic Communications Authority, has drafted a new regulation that will allow it to order a seizure or ISP blockade of any website that fails to promptly remove copyright infringing content, without a court order.

Under the new rules websites and ISPs will have a 72-hour window to process takedown notices. If they don’t respond appropriately within that time-frame AGCOM will take action. The new regulation is scheduled to be implemented early next year and is currently under review by the European Commission.

The proposal, which shows similarities with SOPA and new anti-piracy legislation in Russia, is meeting resistance from various sides including consumer groups, lawyers, scholars and Internet providers who have launched a petition to curb the plans.

One of the complaints is that the current draft lacks due process, as AGCOM will decide whether a site should be blocked without a court order.

“AGCOM has introduced these rules through an administrative process, without hearing the Italian Parliament and without oversight by a court, as is the case in all other countries,” Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer with the Sarzana and Partners law firm specializing in Internet and copyright disputes, tells TorrentFreak.

“Websites and ISPs have three days to remove the infringing works or disable access to such content. If they fail to do so AGCOM gives an order to take down the entire site or to prevent access through the IP-address blocking,” Sarzana adds.

Another element of the new regulation causesing concern is that AGCOM can compel local and foreign Internet providers to hand over the personal details of site owners, again without judicial oversight. The telecoms regulator can then share these details with copyright holders who may want to take legal action.

The rightsholders don’t see any problems and welcome the new proposals, as it will help them to deal with rogue pirate sites more efficiently.

“We believe this regulation will improve the anti piracy efforts and speed up enforcement,” Enzo Mazza, president of Italian anti-piracy group FIMI, tells TorrentFreak.

“Traditionally criminal cases are used to block sites, but this fast track will add value to our efforts. Similar regulations are already applied in the area of online gambling and antitrust, where the authorities can block sites with an administrative order,” Mazza adds.

The European Commission is still reviewing AGCOM’s proposal and is expected to hand down a decision by the end of November.

For the time being sites can only be blocked through court orders, which is standard procedure in Italy now. More than a dozen larger torrent sites, including The Pirate Bay and Kickass.to are already blocked, and last week Torrentcrazy.com and Sumotorrent.sx were added to the growing list.

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