(Written with Silvia Laitila)

The Italian Communication Authority, AGCOM (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni) has ordered “mere conduit” service providers that operate in Italian territory to disable access to the website torrentvia.com (decision No. 51/14/CSP).

In Italy, a recent statutory instrument (Regulation on the protection of copyright on electronic communications networks and implementing procedures) introduced a procedure to quickly deal with online copyright infringements, whereby copyright owners can file an application with the AGCOM to have infringing materials removed from the Internet. The Regulation came into force on 31 March 2014. The new procedure was applied for the first time on 23 April 2014 and the Authority has been fairly active and quick in issuing decisions ever since.

In the case in hand, on 28 May 2014, the AGCOM received an application from FAPAV (Federazione Tutela Contenuti Audiovisivi e Multimediali, an anti-piracy trade association representing the film industry). FAPAV complained that torrentvia.com was involved in making available on the Internet a substantial number of copies of films that were infringing the copyrights of a number of its members.

The AGCOM opened an inquiry and found that the relevant domain name was registered by Domains By Proxy, LLC, a company specialising in anonymisation services based in Arizona, USA. Hosting services were not easily identifiable, but the servers seemed to be attributable to OVH Hosting, Inc., with registered offices in Montreal, Canada.

Since the number of films involved was significant and all the films listed in the application were recent, the Authority considered that the alleged infringement was severe and of a serious nature and thus applied the fast-track procedure provided for under Article 9 of the Regulation. A communication was sent to the relevant service providers on 3 June and the shortened term granted to file counter-arguments expired without any reactions from the recipients.

On 9 June, less than two weeks after the application was filed, the Authority issued its decision.

The inquiry had confirmed that a significant number of films were made available through the services of torrentvia.com and the lack of any justification for their presence on the website. Additionally, it confirmed that the parties represented by FAPAV owned copyrights on those films in Italy. On these grounds, and since the website was hosted outside Italy, AGCOM ordered all “mere conduit” service providers (as defined in Article 14 of Legislative Decree No. 70/2003, implementing Directive 2000/31/EC) based in Italy to disable access to the website by blocking the DNS (Domain Name System) within two days of the notification of the order.

The term to appeal the decision is 60 days. At the moment, access to torrentvia.com from Italy appears to be disabled.