Copyright protection: Italy approves a new anti-piracy law

On July 24, 2023, Law 93/2023 (the “Law”) was published in the Italian Official Gazette, and it will take effect on August 8, 2023. The Law contains provisions aimed at fighting piracy and preventing and halting the illegal dissemination of copyrighted content through electronic communications networks. To achieve this goal, the Law introduces stricter measures and equips the Italian Communications Authority (“AGCOM”) with new tools to combat audiovisual piracy. Notably, AGCOM will have the power to adopt urgent measures to act rapidly to block domain names and IP addresses that illegally disseminate content broadcast live in the form of first screenings of cinematographic works, sporting events, and events of social interest.

The Law consists of seven articles that aim to strengthen copyright protection on online platforms. The measures are briefly summarized below.

Article 1 establishes the basic principles of the Law, including the recognition, protection, and promotion of intellectual property, copyright protection, support for businesses and authors, and network intermediary accountability. It also encourages communications and awareness campaigns on the value of intellectual property.

Article 2 grants AGCOM the power to adopt urgent measures to block access to unlawfully disseminated content. AGCOM may order service providers, including access providers (also known as mere conduits), to block access to unlawfully disseminated content by blocking DNS resolution of domain names and the routing of network traffic to IP addresses that are solely intended for illegal activities. In certain particularly serious and urgent scenarios, as noted above, AGCOM may also order that access to the unlawful content be blocked without first hearing the other party’s grounds or objections. This is intended to provide protection for content that is being broadcast for the first time or is being broadcast live, cases in which the authority needs to take action as soon as possible. When live broadcast is involved, a measure may be issued and executed before the broadcast begins or, at the latest, during the course of the broadcast. If the event is not broadcast live, the measure may be issued and executed before the first broadcast begins or, at the latest, during the course of the broadcast.

The measures in Article 3 fight cinematographic, audiovisual, and editorial piracy through amendments to Italian copyright law. Article 3 introduces a new criminal offense charged against anyone who, for profit, unlawfully posts digital, audio, video, or audiovisual content, in whole or in part, of a cinematographic, audiovisual, or editorial work, or reproduces, performs, or communicates to the public the unlawfully posted material.

Article 4 tasks the Ministry of Culture with organizing public information, communications, and awareness campaigns on the value of intellectual property to counter abuse, unlawful dissemination, and counterfeiting of copyright-protected content.

Article 5 allows AGCOM to issue administrative sanctions following noncompliance with the measures provided under Article 2 of the Law.

Article 6 stipulates that within 60 days of the entry into force of the Law, AGCOM shall adopt the necessary amendments to the Regulation on the protection of copyright on electronic communication networks foreseen by AGCOM Resolution No. 680/13/CONS of December 12, 2013 (also known as the “Regulation” for online copyright enforcement) so that it is in line with the provisions of the Law. As a sidenote, AGCOM launched a public consultation on proposed edits to the Regulation in December 2023, but has yet to adopt its final resolution. Furthermore, Article 6 provides for a technical roundtable of service providers, Internet access providers, rightsholders, content providers, audiovisual service providers, and associations concerned with the protection of copyright and related rights to be convened. This roundtable is to establish the technical and operational requirements of the tools necessary to disable domain names and IP addresses, as provided in Article 2 of the Law, through a single platform to be implemented within six months after the roundtable is convened.

Finally, Article 7 increases AGCOM personnel and establishes that related costs shall be paid by rightsholders to cinematographic works, audiovisual and musical works, television programs, and sporting events, as well as by media service providers and collective management organizations.

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