New Italian decree forbids file-sharing

By EDRi · March 24, 2004

The Italian government has issued a decree on Friday 12 March that puts a
fine of 1.500 euro on the internet file-sharing of feature movies.

On top of the fine, computers and digital storage media can be seized. To
complete the humiliation for the file-sharer, the sentence has to be
published in 1 national daily newspaper and 1 specialised entertainment
magazine. The Ministry of Culture Giuliano Urbani has mockingly declared
this sanction ‘symbolic’. Adding to that, in reference to peer-to-peer
file sharing, Urbani said that ‘multimedia piracy is a theft, and must be
handled as such’.

Since its first draft, this legislative measure was strongly protested
against by citizens, ISPs (forced to violate the privacy laws by spying
and filing complaints against their customers), columnists and
politicians. Service providers that have knowledge of a copyright
violation but do not file an official complaint with the judicial
authorities, risk a fine of between 25.000 and 250.000 euro.

A petition against the conversion of the decree into a regular law
collected more than 22.350 signatures, and more than 2.000 comments were
posted in the forum hosted by the popular technology e-zine

According to user-group ALCEI the decree is part of a long list of laws
and decree’s in Italy that violate the spirit of internet, the liberty and
fundamental rights of citizens. In its attempt to outlaw a broad and
socially accepted behaviour it outdoes the recently approved European
Directive on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property. The decree is
formulated in such broad terms, that the Italian chapter of the Internet
Society worries that the distribution of file-sharing software, and even
the presentation of a hyperlink might be considered as promotions of
crime, and therefore punished severely.

In fact, the decree makes it possible to punish intentions, rather than
actual committed violations of copyright. “Even if such a breach of
fundamental rights might be considered admissible in extreme cases like
terrorism”, ALCEI writes, “it is unacceptable in situations where there is
no risk at all for the life and safety of people and institutions.”

The decree has been approved only by the Ministers. It was published in
the official State Journal on 23 March. It must be converted in a law by
the Parliament within 60 days after publication, or will lose its
effectiveness. The text now only refers to cinematographic works, but
Minister Urbani has already announced that he will extend the scope of
the decree to include music and software before it will become law.

The Internet Society adds that freedom of choice for Italian movie-fans is
limited and prices are kept high. 70% of the movie-distribution market is
in the hands of 5 major companies, only one of which is Italian.

The decree text (24.03.2004)

Signatures against the decree

Comments Internet Society Italy (in Italian, March 2004)

ALCEI press release (in Italian, 15.03.2004)

(Contribution by Pinna, – Italy)