The Associated Press reported yesterday that Italian high court says file-swapping is not illegal.
In this case, two college students from Turin Politechnic Institute were accused of piracy in 1994, after using the school's network to build a peer-to-peer file sharing network for their classmates.
On January 7, 2007, the Cassation (Italy's equivalent of the Supreme Court) declared that downloading music, videos, and programs from the Internet, even when they are clearly covered by copyright, was not illegal as long as the goal was not distribution for monetary gain.
George Assuma, the President of Italy's watchdog group on copyright law, SIAE (the Italian Society of Authors and Editors), points out that in fairness these students could only be judged by the laws as they stood at the time of their crime. (See his reaction at: Il Presidente Assumma su sentenza Cassazione: Reato downloading non autorizzato di opere.) Since that time, Assuma points out, there are at least four laws which have been added to the court's arsenal which may address these issues more appropriately, not the least of which is the European Union Directive on Copyright, which came into force in October of 2003. But do they help?
A look at the
EU Directive on Copyright shows that Article 5.2(b) says:
in respect of reproductions on any medium made by a natural person for private use and for ends that are neither directly nor indirectly commercial, on condition that the rightholders receive fair compensation which takes account of the application or non-application of technological measures referred to in Article 6 to the work or subject-matter concerned;
So it would seem that this may be a case where the initial panic will subside when people actually understand the true context of the case. The European Directive on Copyright, which would certainly apply in Italy, clearly says that EVEN FOR PRIVATE USE the "rightholder" must "receive fair compensation".
Let's hope the Italians get this cleared up in a way that the Associated Press can understand.