Italian court: seizure of file sharing website disproportionate

By Marjolein van der Heide
Future of Copyright

In April, the criminal court of Rome (Italy) seized 27 file websites for copyright infringement, as they offered illegal downloads of the movie “A Monster in Paris”. Access to the websites was blocked from Italian IP addresses through filtering of domain names and DNS.  It was the largest seizure of websites in a western country so far.

One of the platforms, named Rapidgator, appealed this blocking order, stating their offerings are almost are generally legal and that “A Monster in Paris” was the only pirated title on their network. Interestingly, the Court Of Appeal accepted this appeal and decided that the seizure of the website Rapidgator was disproportionate, as only the movie A Monster in Paris could be illegally downloaded on this specific platform.. Apparently, all other content on Rapidgator was legal. The seizure order of Rapidgator is withdrawn and access to the website will be restored.

 

It is the first time that a court decides to withdraw a blocking order for the reason that a certain level of copyright infringement is necessary to justify a seizure measure. In this case, a seizure was disproportionate as only one movie could be illegally downloaded from a generally legal website. In the Netherlands, the opposite has happened: Blocking orders were possible for The Pirate Bay where almost all, but not necessarily 100% of traffic was about pirated content. This Italian case shows it is not clear where the boundary lies.  What percentage of content on a website should be illegal before a seizure is proportionate? We are curious to see if other courts will apply this Italian case law as well. Furthermore it has to be noted that lower Italian judges are not necessarily bound to the decision, as precedents are not binding in the Italian legal system.

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