Italy: AGCOM fines ASSOProvider over Piracy Shield in political back-and-forth

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Italy’s Communications Authority (AGCOM) has fined the Association of Internet Service Providers (ASSOProvider) after the latter requested a list of ISPs monitored by AGCOM’s Piracy Shield anti-piracy platform which is used to block suspected piracy sources online. AGCOM claimed that the request represented an “obstacle to supervisory activities.”  The amount of the fine was undisclosed.

ASSOProvider, which represents hundreds of ISPs operating in Italy, defended its response not to supply the list to AGCOM, because AGCOM already manages a Registry of Communications Operators and therefore knows who they are.

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ASSOProvider also claims that some of the inhibitions placed by Piracy Shield have not been piracy-related at all, and has criticized AGCOM for not disclosing any details about its technical countermeasures.

In the midst of this political struggle, Piracy Shield’s source code, data models, API and documentation were published on Github and were openly available at the end of March. [ It was still available at the time of this article. ]

Before Piracy Shield was launched, ASSOProvider had appealed to the regional administrative court (TAR) in Lazio to prevent Piracy Shield from going into service, but the court refused the appeal.

According to reporting by Italy 24 News, consumers of pirate content are also subject to fines, but confusion reigns as to how consumers will be identified and fined: “(V)ia the Piracy Shield platform you see the sin but not the sinner: the pirated audio-video stream is blocked, but it is not possible to know who is watching it,” they said.

Piracy Shield was developed for Lega Serie A, which donated the platform to AGCOM.

Further reading

Piracy Shield: AGCOM fines Assoprovider for obstructing supervisory activities. Press release. April 5, 2024. ASSOProvider (Associazione Provider Indipendenti)

For Piracy Shield it is now open war: the fine has arrived. Article. April 5, 2024. Italy 24 News.

Why it matters

ASSOProvider claims that they stand on principal because AGCOM is requesting information that they already have, while AGCOM seems to say that any attempt by outsiders to ‘look behind the curtain’ represents obstruction.

It’s clearly a political battle whose point may now be moot, since the technical details about Piracy Shield are openly available.

Piracy Shield has been criticized for heavy-handedness after being accused of blocking legitimate online traffic.  Knowledge of the technical measures used by Piracy Shield could be seen as bread-crumbs that expose methods that could be exploited by criminals.

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