Heated debate in Italy about fines for downloading

By EDRi · April 21, 2004

Today, 21 April, the controversial Urbani decree will be discussed again by the Culture Commission of the Italian Parliament. This law (named after the Minister of Culture) puts heavy fines on the download of movies, music or other copyrighted works even when done without any commercial purpose. Downloaders and file-sharers also risk the seizure of their equipment and a humiliating publication of the verdict in the national press. Fines start at 154 euro for private use of a work that has been distributed illegally, and run up to 1.032 euro in case of a repeated offence.

The decree attempts to authorise surveillance of electronic communication, introducing an assumption of ‘guilty by default’ of all internet users. The debate in the Parliamentary Commissions only seems to cause temporary delay, since it has the support of most of the Italian government.

There are many reasons to stop the decree in its draft form. First of all, the reaction of the Italian community (35.000 signatures collected in a few days), and secondly the protest of many small and large ISPs. Even the press and music publisher associations protested – the decree at first only protected movies and not the music.

The decree also conflicts with the Constitution and other laws. Under privacy legislation, internet providers are forbidden to act as informers and law enforcers checking their customer traffic, but under the Urbani decree they risk heavy fines for not informing the police about potential illegal behaviour of their customers.

Quite curiously, the introduction of this law appears coincides with the launch of a new pay-per-download service named Rosso Alice and offered by former state-owned monopolist Telecom Italia. The timing feeds the public suspicion that the decree is not so much representing the general public interest, but only protects specific economical interests, most of them outside of the Italian borders. More than 400 people responded in a heated debate today on the website ‘Punto Informatico’, suggesting the entertainment industry only regrets that torture has not been added to the range of legal instruments to extract information from internet users.

The current draft of the decree (in Italian) http://www.camera.it/_dati/leg14/lavori/stampati/pdf/14PDL0058180.pdf

The pay-per-download website by Telecom Italia http://www.rossoalice.it

Debate about the Urbani decree (in Italian, 21.04.2004) http://punto-informatico.it/p.asp?i=47874

(Contribution by Daniele and Odo, autistici.org)