New Legislation Gives Telecoms Regulator Major Powers to Fight Piracy

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The Italian telecoms regulator AGCOM already has tools at its disposal to fight piracy but legislation winding its way through the corridors of power will move things to a new level. In addition to making it easier for copyright holders to disable access to identified infringing content at the ISP level, similar powers will enable urgent and precautionary blocking even before an infringement takes place.

Pirate KeyLaws that attempt to deter copyright infringement by punishing pirate site operators exist in most developed countries around the world.

Entities such as the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment use them to take hundreds of sites and services offline, either through direct legal action or simply using the threat of it. But this is just one aspect of content protection and when pirates refuse to take their operations offline, additional tools can come into play.

Compelling ISPs to block subscriber access to pirate sites requires no compliance from pirate site operators but the legal process can be slow and expensive. This has led some countries to seek value via so-called ‘administrative’ blocking programs that don’t require continual legal action and authorization from the courts.

In Italy, site blocking is handled by telecoms regulator AGCOM but since online piracy is a moving target, new laws are required to ensure an easier, faster, and more efficient process. Information released this week outlining proposed legislation in Italy shows that through AGCOM, the country wants to take piracy blocking to the next level.

Blocking Orders and Dynamic Adaption

The basic principles behind the bills are the promotion of intellectual property to stimulate innovation, investment and creativity, and the provision of mechanisms to prevent illegal exploitation, including via electronic communication networks.

As before, AGCOM will have the power to restrict access to infringing content by ordering internet service providers of all kinds to implement blocking measures. The new bill envisions this being carried out by blocking the DNS resolution of domain names, and by blocking the routing of network traffic to IP addresses “without delay and in real time.”

In addition, AGCOM will require similar blocking measures to be applied to any other “domain name, sub-domain or any other IP address which, through any change in the name or domain extension, allows access to the same contents illegally being disseminated.”

In short, any orders to block pirate ‘locations’ will be dynamic in nature and will automatically adapt to any countermeasures deployed by pirate sites, without requiring any new orders.

Urgent and Precautionary Measures

In order to provide protection to ‘live’ content such as sporting events, AGCOM will have the power to order service providers and network access providers to quickly block domain names and IP addresses during transmission.

On top, the proposals include new measures designed to be proactive in nature, to prevent infringment before it happens.

At the request of rightsholders, such precautionary blocking can be notified and executed before an event takes place based on lists of domain names and IP addresses previously identified as sources of infringing content. These lists can be periodically updated by rightsholders to include new domains and IP addresses, meaning that at least in theory, pirate broadcasts can be disrupted before they even begin.

Additional Powers & Requirements

AGCOM is required to inform the public prosecutor’s office at the court of Rome of all ‘disabling measures’ and which online entities received notifications to implement them. Those entities must inform the same prosecutor of all blocking activities carried out in response to notifications and “communicate any data or information available that could allow the identification of abusive suppliers.”

Finally, to ensure compliance with blocking instructions, the proposals include potentially severe punishments for “anyone who fails or delays to implement” them. Unless the offense constitutes a “more serious crime”, Italy is proposing a prison term of three months to one year.

The basic text of the proposals (1) received unanimous joint commission support this week and will proceed to the Chamber of Deputies (lower house of parliament) followed by a vote at the Senate of the Republic (upper house).


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