Internet companies voice alarm over Italian law

Internet companies and civil liberty groups have voiced alarm over a proposed Italian law which would make online service providers responsible for their audiovisual content and copyright infringements by users. The draft, due to be approved next month, would make Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Fastweb and Telecom Italia, and websites like Google’s YouTube, responsible for monitoring TV content on their pages, industry experts say. It comes as Google’s YouTube unit is engaged in a legal battle with Mediaset, controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Italy’s largest media group wants EUR 500m in damages from YouTube for copyright infringement. The proposed regulations would make Internet sites as liable as television stations for their content and subject to hefty fines by the AGCOM media watchdog, according to a 33-page draft. Italy’s parliament, which is holding consultations with civil groups and Internet associations, is due to present a non-binding opinion to Silvio Berlusconi’s government by early February. Raffaele Nardacchione, director of the Asstel association of telecommunications providers which represents ISPs like Fastweb and Tiscali, said the decree far exceeded the terms of the original European directive by extending the definition of audiovisual media to Internet firms and by tightening copyright.The draft decree only requires presidential approval. EU sources told Reuters Tuesday that the Commission could open an investigation into the decree for infringing EU norms.


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