Serie A Gets Tough On Piracy

Author:Mr Paolo Macchi
Profession:Withers LLP

Italian football league Serie A is taking action against audiovisual piracy of sports content (i.e. the illegal activity of pirate operator websites offering access, mainly through IPTVs, to audiovisual sports content obtained from a pay TV operator), having launched a campaign called “Piracy kills football” several months ago.

In mid-September 2019, the Special Unit for the Protection of Privacy and Technological Fraud of the Guardia di Finanza (the Italian law enforcement agency responsible for fighting financial crime, tax evasion and smuggling) gave a hard blow to the activities of illegal IPTVs. By way of an international operation involving eight European countries, the Guardia di Finanza seized and blocked the notorious “Xstream Codes” online platform, thus denying access to illegal sports-related content to over 700,000 online users. More than twenty people are being investigated.

The move came as part of an operation called “Free Football”, which is being carried out with the support of Serie A and some of its domestic licensees, including pay-TV broadcaster Sky Italia and sports streaming service DAZN.

In Italy, digital piracy is a crime, and the consequences of such actions can be harsh. Article 174-ter of Italian Law 633 of 1941 (the “Copyright Law”) regulates violation of copyright. It sets forth sanctions against those who obtain audiovisual content from illegal providers. The sanctions vary according to the gravity of the crime committed.

Making illegal downloads of copyrighted material for personal use would lead to a fine up to €1,032 and the seizure of the material used to commit the crime. The penalties are even higher if the content, once illegally downloaded, is then shared. In this case, based on Article 171-ter of the Copyright Law, it is no longer an administrative offense but a criminal one. If file sharing is carried out without profit, a fine up to €2,065 is provided under the Copyright Law.

The penalty increases, with fines starting from516 and imprisonment up to one year, if a copyrighted work not intended for advertising is shared. Finally, those who illegally broadcast copyrighted audiovisual content for profit may face imprisonment from six months to three years and a fine ranging...

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