Italy prepares 'one strike' anti-piracy law

ISPs would be required to make changes aimed to stopping copyright, trademark and patent infringements

The Italian government is preparing an anti-piracy law that could ban Internet users from access after one alleged infringement, a lawyer and an analyst warned.

ISPs would be required to use filters against services that infringe copyright, trademark or patents under terms of the draft law. The proposed changes to Italy's e-commerce directive were drafted in July by members of parliament belonging to the Il Popolo della Libertà (PdL) party of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. After analyzing the proposed amendments, Paolo Brini, spokesperson for ScambioEtico, a grassroots movement committed to copyright reform, concluded the Italian government is in fact proposing a "one strike" out Internet law.

Citizens could be disconnected from the Internet if a provider is notified of an alleged copyright, trademark or patent infringement on the Web, Brini said. ISPs would have to blacklist citizens who are only suspected of infringements and providers might be compelled to install filters to sniff out copyright, trademark or patent abuse, he said. Furthermore, ISPs that do not comply with the filter requirement could be held liable under civil laws.

"Some parts of the draft law are clearly not applicable in real life, while others have the power to crumble ISPs and hosting e-commerce," Brini said in a written analysis published on Monday. "It is very interesting to note that this draft law is compliant to one of the older versions of ACTA, the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement."

It remains to be seen how the technical implementation of the law would be performed. "I firmly think that this is a 'green light' toward one-strike disconnections for any kind of infringement, not 'only' disconnections for industrial property rights infringements," he said in an response to emailed questions.

ICT lawyer Fulvio Sarazana, owner of the law firm Studio Legale Sarzana & Associati and author of the book 'Legal Aspects of Internet Commerce,' drew the same conclusions as Brini. He called the proposal "Resolution Killer Internet," because the text under consideration cancels any judiciary steps in the field of copyright infringement on the Web. If the proposed measure is approved, providers would be considered civilly and criminally responsible for infringements. The bill would also transform ordinary citizens into organs of the police, he said in a blog post.

Both Brini and Sarazana emphasized that the law-making process is progressing rapidly in this instance. "This time the law has had an unusual fast track," Brini said. "Unusual for Italy and for a law drafted not by the government, but by some MPs of the majority party."

Currently, the draft is with a parliamentary committee for the first check. While Brini noted that it's possible the bill will go nowhere because it's not uncommon "that an unconstitutional law gets stuck or frozen for years in the parliamentary committee to be eventually forgotten with the next government," there is no guarantee that will happen this time.

Elena Centemero, the member of parliament who spearheaded the draft law, did not respond to emailed questions.

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