Italian agreement to fight copyright infringements

By EDRi · March 10, 2005

The Italian government has closed an agreement with 50 organisations from the music, video, publishing and IT industry to fight copyright infringements by organising public ‘sensibilisation’ campaigns.

The agreement was launched on 3 March 2005 during the well-known Sanremo pop music festival. Prepared by three ministers (of Technological Innovation, Culture and Communications) the agreement was signed amongst others by RAI (the state-owned TV and radio broadcasting corporation), Microsoft, BSA, Philips, Mediaset (the largest private TV broadcasting corporation in Italy), Sony, Tiscali, Telecom Italia, AIIP (the Italian association of Internet Providers) as well as by two consumer organisations (Adiconsum and UNC).

The agreement contains 5 actions points.

1. Promote the production of new digital content for different platforms and digitise existing content;
2. Promote the development and distribution of ‘public interest’ digital content, possibly with the help of government-sponsored websites;
3. Develop ‘sensibilisation’ (awareness raising) campaigns for consumers, to reinforce ‘the ethical and social conscience’ of citizens and raise awareness of existing legislation;
4. Develop campaigns aimed at the youth, in school-coordinated activities;
5. Develop campaigns aimed at employees and government officials.

The agreement is supposed to produce Codes of Conduct to which all internet providers and other distribution platforms, rightsholders and the audio-visual production industry will voluntarily adhere.

Minister Lucio Stanca of Technological Innovation explained that the Sanremo pact was an answer to the digital dilemma caused by the rise in Internet usage. On the one hand authors and content producers risk loosing investments by the unauthorised copying and sharing of their works, but on the other hand the opportunities offered by the digital revolution for access to information and cultural growth should be preserved.

Notwithstanding the enthusiasm of the initiative promoters, however, the Sanremo agreement is problematic in several ways. For example, the third recital of the agreement guidelines binds the signatories to “favour the development and the adoption of Digital Rights Management systems (….) respecting principles of interoperability, technological neutrality and ease of content use by end users.” Nowhere in the Sanremo agreement are any of the well-known problems mentioned DRM systems can present, such as privacy issues, contractual and/or factual overturn of ‘fair use’ provisions and user exceptions in copyright law, the stifling of research activities and the over-favouring of rightsholders through legal protection of TPMs (Technical Protection Measures).

The provisions for access providers will seriously enhance control over internet users. Providers must “adopt […] all the initiatives aimed at fighting unauthorised digital dissemination of illegal content and at creating a secure digital environment” (recital 7) and “create termination or suspension clauses in their general contracts with users in case of specific copyright violations” (recital 10).

The Sanremo agreement is rather one-sided in its definition of a market defined by consumers and producers and paternalistic in its phrasing of the need to ‘sensibilise’ the audience. In that way, it is similar to the recent ‘Copy or Love’ project, initiated by a number of Italian collecting societies with the support of the Ministry of Education. The website provides a very peculiar rightsholders vision on copyright law and history and provides no reference for example to Free Software or initiatives such as Creative Commons.

Some observers see the agreement as an answer to the huge amount of criticisms that followed the Urbani Law. This controversial law requires official registration of all digital copies of any creative work, something obviously difficult for works whose licensing terms explicitly allow for free copying and redistribution.

Text of the Sanremo Agreement (in Italian, 03.03.2005)

List of signatories to the Sanremo Agreement (in Italian)

‘Copy or Love’ project

Urbani law (in Italian)

(Contribution by Andrea Glorioso, Italian consultant on digital policies)