moving ahead with its plans to hold YouTube accountable for its users' copyright infringements. According to new regulations that have recently been proposed by the Italian government, YouTube would have to get a TV license to operate in Italy. Should Italy move ahead with this regulation, YouTube would have to follow the same rules and regulations as traditional broadcast channels. These new rules would eliminate the "safe harbor" rules that currently shield services like YouTube.The Italian government is
According to Nicola D'Angelo, a commissioner in Italy's Communications Authority, these new rules would make Italy "the only Western country in which it is necessary to have prior government permission to operate this kind of service. This aspect reveals a democratic risk, regardless of who happens to be in power."
Update: We just heard back from Google. Here is the company's official statement, courtesy of Marco Pancini, Google's senior policy counsel for Italy:
"When this Directive was debated at length in Brussels, it was clearly decided that user-generated video content should not be regulated in the same way as traditional TV content. If it was then people would find it far more difficult to use video sites to share their videos. So we hope that Italy does not go down a different path and start to regulate videos that people upload to the internet in the same way as they regulate TV."
A "Mere Conduit"
As Nate Anderson notes, the EU passed an electronic commerce directive in 2000 that clearly states that whenever a service only provides a transmission service, "the service provider is not liable for the information transmitted." The EU considers these services "mere conduits," as long as the "do not initiate the transmission, do not select the receiver of the transmission and do not select or modify the information contained in the transmission." The EU directive, however, leaves it up to the EU's member states to require service providers to prevent infringement.
How Will Google React?
Should Italy's deputy minister of communications Paolo Romani decide to forge ahead with these new regulations, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and any other company that offers services similar to YouTube would face substantial legal risks if they continued to operate in Italy.
Google, of course, is already embroiled in a legal conflict with Italy. We asked Google for a statement about the current situation in Italy and will update this post once we hear more.