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Obama admin backs Berlusconi’s unfettered “anti-piracy” regs

Luca de Biase explains a new power about to be claimed by AGCOM, the Italian telecommunications regulatory agency, that would permit it to “remove content from Italian websites or to block access to foreign websites accused by copyright holders to break their rights.” The proposed powers implement a requirement from the Italian government that the agency take action to prevent piracy. The decision about the proposed AGCOM powers is due on July 6.

The Obama administration is backing the law, and perhaps the specific implementation. Writes Luca:

FIMI (association of music publishers) has circulated a mail about Obama’s administration support to AGCOM, quoting this US document: “The United States encourages Italy to ensure that the AGCOM regulations are swiftly promulgated and implemented, that these regulations create an effective mechanism against copyright piracy over the Internet, and that they address all types of piracy that takes place online.”

The quote comes from an April 2011 global roundup from the U.S. Trade Representative. Here’s the paragraph on Italy:

Italy remains on the Watch List with an Out-of-Cycle review to be conducted this year. Italy continued to make progress in improving its IPR protection and enforcement in 2010, including by increased cooperation among law enforcement officials and improved enforcement actions against certain types of IPR violations. The United States remains concerned that, overall enforcement against copyright piracy continues to be inadequate and that piracy over the Internet continues to grow, severely damaging the legitimate market for distribution of copyrighted works. The United States welcomes recent efforts to address piracy over the Internet, and looks forward to measures to help ameliorate this problem. Specifically, proposed regulations by the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) could provide rights holders with an avenue to curb IPR violations online in an effective manner. The United States encourages Italy to ensure that the AGCOM regulations are swiftly promulgated and implemented, that these regulations create an effective mechanism against copyright piracy over the Internet, and that they address all types of piracy that takes place online. The United States also encourages Italy to address other IPR issues, including a troubling Data Protection Agency ruling prohibiting the monitoring of peer-to-peer networks. While rights holders report good efforts by the Finance Police and the Customs Police, few cases reach final sentencing and courts still fail to impose deterrent level sentences. The United States will continue to work with Italy to address these and other matters.

It’s not clear that this an endorsement of what seems like over-reaching by AGCOM, but it ain’t pretty.

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