The Court of Rome has issued a decision on the liability of search engines that will lead to considerable discussions.

PFA Films S.r.l., as exclusive licensee of exploitation rights on the movie “About Elly” of the director Asghar Farhadi, brough an interim injunction before the Court of Rome against Google Italy S.r.l., Yahoo! Italia S.r.l. and Microsoft S.r.l. (as owner of the search engine Bing) because of the breach of their IPRs through links to websites allowing the streaming view, or the downloading or P2P of the movie without PFA’s consent.

The court dismissed the case in relation to Google Italy S.r.l. and Microsoft S.r.l. because the Italian companies of such groups did not have an active role in the management of the search engines. On the contrary, the court deemed that:

  • Yahoo! in the management of the search engine is a caching provider for the purposes of the E-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC;
  • Yahoo! was notified of the breach by PFA; and
  • the lack of removal of the links to the movie by Yahoo! following the notification of the breach made Yahoo! contributory liable for it.

As a consequence of the above, the court ordered to Yahoo! the removal of any link to the unlawful copies of the movie!

The decision is interesting for 2 main reasons:

  • this approach might oblige search engines to remove the access to contents following a mere notice from the alleged right holder; and
  • it extends the removal obligation not only to the links to the websites providing the unlawful contents, but also to other websites performing lawful activities, but containing links to such unlawful websites.

What will be the future for the liability regime of Internet Service Providers in Italy? The interest for the upcoming results of the consultation from the Italian Telecom Authority on the matter is increasing more and more after this decision.

Do you want to know more on the above? Feel free to contact me, Giulio Coraggio (giulio.coraggio@dlapiper.com).

Posted by Giulio Coraggio on Sunday 03 Apr 2011
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