Italy plans online video shake-up

04 February 2010

ROME: Online video services such as YouTube could soon be subject to similar regulations as television broadcasters in Italy, if new proposals are passed by the country's government.

The authorities are currently considering a decree, the exact details of which are yet to be finalised, which would extend the kind of rules in place for TV companies to web-based video providers.

Paolo Romani, the European nation's deputy minister of communications, said the aim was to "establish a principle" regarding how these properties used content.

"If you use copyrighted material, your site becomes an editorial product, a broadcaster that is placed at the same level as other broadcasters," he added.

According to Romani, this move follows on from a directive from the European Commission intended to ensure national regulations throughout the EU are standardised, making it easier to sell ads and rights.

Under the revised rules, which could be implemented later this month, website owners would be required to acquire permission to host copyrighted material uploaded by internet users.

Moreover, these services will have to apply for a formal broadcast licence, and be considered liable for anything libellous that is added to their pages.

Romani continued, however, that "individual bloggers" would not fall under the rubric of the new framework.

Despite this, Stefan Krawczyk, of the Digital Media Association – which has members like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft – said this would be the first time a portal's parent company would be held responsible for user-generated content in this way.

"This is really serious, because it sets a precedent. Today it's Italy, and tomorrow it may be Latvia or Greece or Denmark," he argued.

Marco Pancini, Google's senior policy counsel in Italy, added "any kind of legal framework which is trying to apply the same rules of traditional media to subjects like us would make it almost impossible to invest to develop this kind of technology."

Google and Yahoo have already formally raised their concerns regarding these proposals.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff