Digital copyright enforcement in Europe

Copyright infringement is borderless, but the responses remain territorial.

This week, Italy’s new digital copyright regulations have come into force.

Regulated by AGCOM, the Italian Communication Authority, the rules allow for copyright holders to request takedown procedures.  Turnaround of complaints is swift and the potential fines high.

The new Italian framework was discussed this week at a meeting in London attended by over 100 people interested in developments in digital copyright.  Organised by IPKAT, the event provided the opportunity to contrast country approaches to digital copyright enforcement.

Blocking injunctions – target the ISPs

In a landmark case in the UK in 2011, the courts ruled that internet service provider BT should block access to Newzbin2 – a site which was providing access to pirated digital content.  This approach of targeting internet providers was continued in 2011 when ISP blocking requests against Pirate Bay were approved.

Blocking injunctions have since become the ‘weapon of choice’ in the UK and their relative simplicity to obtain has seen a rapid growth.  One blocking order was granted in 2011, and one in 2012.  Since then there have been over 40, targeting torrent and other sites.  In the near future perhaps social media sites or search engines will also be targeted by blocking injunction legislation. 

Hadopi – less stick, more carrot?

In France the Hadopi Law became operational in 2010.  It is overseen by an independent body which operates a graduated response mechanism with a focus on educating and changing the behaviour of subscribers.

This graduated warning message model uses first and second warning letters before moving to law.  Two million first letters have been sent, 200,000 second letters but only 70 cases went onto the public prosecutor and only one case went to law.  In France it is not deemed acceptable to deny access to the internet, and this is not a potential sanction. 

There are, however, changes afoot in France.  A new report will probably be published later this year which may well see changes in emphasis towards commercial piracy while continuing the focus on the education of individuals.

Meanwhile in Italy – "nessun dorma"

The new law has been accompanied by an advertising campaign focusing on the value of digital works for everyone.  AGCOM, the communication authority, has regulatory powers and the new orders are supported by huge economic sanctions in the case of non-compliance.  The new law is specifically designed to protect digital works – and to work rapidly.  Copyright holders may file a takedown request with ACGOM who will make their first assessment and communicate this with the uploader, the website manager and publish their communication  on their website.  There are three possible responses:

a)    The infringer takes down the content

b)    The communication is ignored or

c)    The recipient defends/him/herself

For both b) and c) the case goes to a judgment panel.  Sanctions may include fines, selective takedown or disabled access.  The fines are high – ranging from 10,000 Euros up to over 250,000 Euros.  Decisions may be appealed against but overall the timeframe is very short.

What really works?

Evidence suggests that a mixture of enforcement, education and – most importantly - the provision of alternative, legal content will drive down piracy.

Speakers at the event included: Darren Meale,  Brigitte Lindner and Alberto Bellan. @ albertobellan.

Further reading: Does digital piracy impact revenues?; Ofcom Piracy Report; BBC News;