Italy Classifies YouTube as TV Station

by Jordan Richardson on January 4, 2011

La Repubblica is reporting (translated) that the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) has introduced two resolutions pertaining to internet television and internet radio.

The resolutions decree that sites like YouTube count as television stations, making them liable and even more responsible for the content they host. According to reporting from La Repubblica, the ruling makes YouTube and other sites legally responsible for all of their content. This makes the video service providers directly responsible for what users upload, hinging on the notion of “editorial control” which AGCOM has taken as vital.

The reasoning behind this is that YouTube and other sites “curate” their content in some fashion, which translates to “editorial control” even if the “curating” process is done through automatically-generated algorithms.

The sites will be subject to a tax and will have requirements to take down videos within 48 hours at the request of anyone who feels slandered by content. Bizarrely, the resolution also includes a ruling to not broadcast videos unsuitable for children at certain hours of the day. How this type of thing could be policed in an online universe is beyond me.

The expectation is that these rules will be challenged in Italian courts over the next while, as they pretty much render operating a video site online impossible. They also appear to be in violation with EU rules pertaining to protecting service providers, says Engadget’s Nilay Patel.

In December of 2010, Shaw Communications pressed the CRTC to regulate companies like Netflix. The rationale there was that Netflix, in its Canadian incarnation as a streaming video service, was a broadcaster. Because these “broadcasters” didn’t pay for Canadian content, giants like Shaw Communications felt the playing field was unfair. In Shaw’s attempt to get Netflix and other outlets like Hulu and Google TV to pay up for content, it was casting a wide net over what constituted a “broadcaster” in Canada.

In many respects, the case we’re hearing about in Italy and the proposal from Shaw would have arrived at similar conclusions. In redefining what a “broadcaster” is, the rules are shifted and the way content is viewed and produced on the internet is subject to considerable change. Luckily, the CRTC has already stated that it has no intention of regulating the internet and the case quietly slipped away.

For Italians, however, their authorities have already moved beyond that point and into some pretty tricky sauce. It’s a useful object lesson, to say the least.

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