By Joe McNamee

At the end of 2014, EDRi wrote an article on the Italian telecoms regulator AGCOM’s censorship procedures for the newsletter of the EU Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Infringements. After agreeing to publish the article, the Observatory changed its mind – it has told us that it did so after it “felt obliged to give an opportunity for our Italian public stakeholders to comment”. In short, according to the Observatory, AGCOM succeeded in censoring the publication of an article about AGCOM’s censorship activities.

Having never contributed to the Observatory newsletter before, we appeared to have an interesting opportunity to do so last year. In July 2014, the newsletter included an article on the new powers that AGCOM granted itself to make orders requiring the blocking of websites, without a clear legal base and without an assessment of effectiveness and proportionality – and therefore, legality. As this was an activity of a participant in the Observatory, it decided that it was an appropriate article for inclusion in their publication.

Subsequently, however, the predictable legal concerns surrounding such an ad hoc, non-judicial process led to the system being referred to the Italian Constitutional Court. We reported on this in the EDRi-gram and proposed this article to the Observatory, in order to ensure that the readers of the newsletter were kept up to date on information that they had already read.

We were delighted when the Observatory agreed to publish in its December edition. Without any further communication with us whatsoever, the “Italian public stakeholders” were asked by the Observatory to give their views on whether our article was acceptable or not. AGCOM argued that the article should be censored on the basis that the text (which merely stated the facts of the case without editorialising) was not objective, giving only some of the relevant information (although, by failing to provide an update, this was actually what the Observatory was doing).

This complaint was enough to persuade the Observatory that the newsletter is “not a place for polemics between various stakeholders” and to leave readers of the publication with the rosy, out of date picture previously painted by AGCOM.

While the Observatory felt that it was important to warn AGCOM of the possible publication of our article, it felt no similar compunction to tell us that the article had been censored. The first we knew about it was when the newsletter was delivered.

EDRigram: Italy: Administrative copyright enforcement unconstitutional?

Observatory newsletter: AGCOM regulation on administrative copyright enforcement (p.25)