New Piracy Shield Legal Challenge Filed at Italy’s Council of State

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Long before the launch of Italy's Piracy Shield blocking system, ISP association ASSOProvider warned that trouble lay ahead and innocent parties were likely to get caught up in the crossfire. After failing to stop the launch of the platform with a legal bid in 2023, ASSOProvider has mounted a new legal challenge at the Council of State, the body that ensures public administration is carried out legally in Italy.

piracy-shieldxSince its launch early February, Italy’s Piracy Shield system and its operators have been at the center of a series of controversies.

From blocking innocent platforms and bizarre public denials claiming that never actually happened, to the leaking of Piracy Shield source code online and claims that didn’t happen either, a more difficult debut would be hard to imagine.

Yet with legitimate complaints from negatively-affected members of the public being given short shrift, and access to information requests pushed aside, the groundwork is in place for additional controversy further down the line.

AGCOM Issues its First Piracy-Shield Related Fine

Without assistance from Italian ISPs, blocking pirate services would be impossible in Italy. Against the wishes of many, however, their role in the system is enshrined in law.

When the Piracy Shield system churns out domains and IP addresses to be blocked, ISPs must ensure that none of their customers can access them within 30 minutes. Associated costs are the ISPs’ burden too, as are the fines they face for non-compliance. Rightsholders, meanwhile, face no sanctions whatsoever for their own blunders.

ISP association ASSOProvider has protested this imbalance from the beginning; it represents smaller companies likely to be disproportionately affected by the imposition of additional costs. Last year, ASSOProvider mounted a legal challenge and predictably ran into the combined might of telecoms regulator AGCOM and Piracy Shield’s corporate backers, including top-tier football league Serie A.

The challenge failed to stop the launch of Piracy Shield but when predictions of over-blocking became reality, ASSOProvider filed an official information request to obtain data relating to the program thus far. AGCOM’s response was to fine ASSOProvider for obstructing its Piracy Shield supervisory activities; specifically, for not providing a list of the ISPs it represents, despite AGCOM already being well aware of their names.

That the first fine linked to the new anti-piracy regime targeted non-pirates hasn’t gone unnoticed. ASSOProvider seems to have drawn energy and motivation from it, contrary to the intended effect.

New Legal Challenge Filed at the Council of State

Working with the Sarzana Law Firm of Rome, ASSOProvider will now challenge the legality of the regulatory provisions underpinning the AGCOM-supervised Piracy Shield.

“The dozens of reports from users, businesses and associations, whose rights have been unjustly violated, have convinced the Association to continue its battle for legality and the protection of citizens’ rights on the internet,” an announcement from Sarzana & Associati reads.

“In recent months the Association had already requested the list of access inhibition measures implemented through the platform, especially since the inhibitions seem to have also involved subjects completely unrelated to piracy activities,” it continues, referencing the access to information request filed last month.

The Consiglio di Stato (‘Council of State’) is the body that ensures public administration in Italy complies with relevant law. The specifics of ASSOProvider’s challenge will appear in due course but since the Council has jurisdiction over all administrative authorities in Italy, the association will seek a robust review and a positive outcome.

Giovanbattista Frontera, President of the Board of Directors of ASSOProvider, says its aims are clear; greater transparency in order to identify the critical issues that can compromise the battle against internet piracy.

“The association I represent intends first of all to thank the free press and the countless ‘straight-backed’ journalists who covered the Piracy Shield affair with professionalism and independence, in an objectively difficult context. What happened to completely innocent individuals who had nothing to do with piracy is there for all to see,” Frontera says.

“ASSOProvider will continue to invoke the principles of legality and protection of rights before the Judiciary, as it has always done and will not be afraid to report the errors of the system before all possible jurisdictions and institutions, in compliance with the law.”

Predictable Action By Legal Streaming Services

Piracy Shield typically aims to prevent consumer access to pirate IPTV services, especially those that provide access to live sports broadcasts. Subscribers to these services typically mention the expense of legal services as a driving factor; paying a fraction of the cost for a pirate product is clearly more attractive than paying perhaps ten times more.

Depending on opinion, legal services are over-priced because football in general lives beyond its means, they simply like to profiteer, or because of thieving pirates. If these people paid their fair share, companies could reduce their prices to all, some have claimed.

As we’ve heard from AGCOM and Serie A since Piracy Shield launched in February, the system works; pirates are getting blocked left and right, and pirate services are having big problems servicing customers in Italy. If that is indeed true, it would be interesting to know the background to Sky’s decision to increase the price of its sport and football packages in Italy.

DDaY reports that annual subscribers will see the sport component increase from 16 euros to 22 euros, a total of 90 euros per month. The football package will increase from 5 euros to 8 euros per month. Those who subscribe to the Open offer will see the sports pack increased from 20 euros to 26.90 euros per month, with football increasing from 5 to 8 euros per month.

If it’s true that Piracy Shield is definitely working, those who predicted falling prices appear to be wrong. In theory, at least.


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