Protecting copyright in Italy: AGCOM procedure proving successful

Written on 5 Jul 2017

An Intellectual Property rights owner, finding its work/product being infringed online in Italy, may start a proceeding before the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) in order to protect its rights.

This action is enabled by a 2014 Regulation regarding copyright protection.  It constituted the first administrative mechanism to deal in an administrative way with online and radio-television (i.e. broadcasting, livestreaming, webcasting and on-demand) piracy in Italy. The aim is to thwart the diffusion of digital works in violation of authors’ exclusive rights and to protect all those who run a website as well as providers.

How does the process work?

Either the authors of the works or their licensees of copyright may report the offence directly to the internet service provider and, at the same time, report such violation to AGCOM by depositing a special application for starting the proceeding, together with a proof of ownership of the copyright allegedly being infringed.  There is no cost for filing such an application.

The procedure before AGCOM has a maximum duration of 35 days from the date of application.

The authority must examine the formal and substantive requirements and decide either to dismiss or grant the procedure. If the “accused” subject refuses to remove the disputed content, it has five days to produce its own counter-arguments proving what right it has to use the allegedly infringing works.

The Regulation provides various sanctions, including both the removal of the infringing content and, in the most serious cases of “massive” violation, blocking the entire website. Moreover, if the accused subjects refuse to cooperate with the authority, AGCOM has the power to issue significant fines and it may also refer to the judicial police.

How successful has the Regulation been?

The Regulation has been very successful.  AGCOM receives over 200 requests per year to intervene in copyright infringement online, mostly regarding violations of audiovisual works, images and music.   However a substantial proportion of requests are either withdrawn prior to initiating the procedure or refused if the authority deems the requests ineligible or inadmissible or related to proceedings still under “pre-inquiry”.

By way of example, in the 134 cases actually started before AGCOM in 2015, in 70 instances, the recipient of the communication for the removal of one or more content on its own website decided to comply voluntarily with the request – conveyed through the authority – and subsequently removed the disputed content before any decision. In 12 cases, the Authority refused proceedings on the grounds that the evidence for ordering the removal of the disputed contents was either non-existent or insufficient. In two cases, the applications were withdrawn by right holders.

Nevertheless, the Regulation has resulted in around 40 rulings per year requiring the blocking of access to platforms or the removal of infringing contents from websites.

If the ruling is not respected by the infringing party,the AGCOM will impose fines which may exceed €250,000. In such case, AGCOM will also communicate the violation to the judicial authorities, which may then start a criminal proceeding.