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For 15 years the United States has been pressing the Italian government for tougher IPR enforcement measures. Eye-opening revelations in a new batch of leaked US diplomatic cables from Wikileaks describe how the American government, via its embassy in Rome, attempted to manipulate Italian domestic policy for intellectual property and copyright. Not only did they work with the Italian copyright industries, but their political tentacles even stetched into the judicial system .

A cable from the US Rome Embassy in 2009, seen by iptegrity.com, expresses disappointment with IPR and copyright enforcement in Italy. On that basis, the Embassy organised conferences, dinners and seminars to which they invited Italian policy-makers and prominent public figures. Regular meetings were held with the local content industry representatives, with the specific aim of getting them to lobby their government for the changes in Italian copyright law required by the US.

As an economic threat, Italy was placed on the US government's Special 301 list.

Especially invidious is a suggestion by the cable writer that the Embassy tried to educate and influence Italian magistrates in respect of copyright and IPR enforcement cases . The writer implies that the judges and magistrates were too soft on copyright matters, and not inclined to issue tough sentences for copyright infringement (although they seem to have been more "satisfactory" when dealing with trade mark infringement").

The cable states that judges 'regard IPR violations (especially copyright violations) as petty offences' and that the magistrates 'are the weak link in combatting IPR theft in Italy'. It would seem that this is the reason for a statement at the end of the cable that the US Embassy was organising "seminars designed to sensitize the magistracy to IPR issues".

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Overview of IPR in Italy

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¶2. (U) Italy has adequate IPR laws in place, but relatively

few IPR cases are brought to trial. Judges still regard IPR

violations (particularly copyright violations) as petty

offenses, and the magistracy can be said to be the weak link

in combating IPR theft in Italy. The Italian Finance Police

(GDF) and Italy's Customs police (Dogana) are active and

skilled investigators, but they are frustrated by the fact

that few cases reach final sentencing. Historically there

has been a reluctance by judicial officials to impose

deterrent penalties. A new bill already approved by the

Chamber of Deputies and expected to be approved soon by the

Senate will increase penalties for a range of crimes,

including counterfeiting and piracy. While some judges still

seem reluctant to view IP infringement as a serious crime,

the GOI has made IP instruction part of the regular training

that all judges must receive, and some high ranking members

of the judiciary publicly supported the view that IPR crimes

should be treated seriously.

Mission Efforts to Promote IPR Protection

¶17. (U)

Over the last 15 or so years the Embassy and

Consulates have organized successful IPR promotion efforts

ranging from roundtables with key GOI figures, public

speeches by the ambassador and others, to awards for

successful enforcement action and seminars designed to

sensitize the magistracy to IPR issues. These programs have

effectively raised the profile of IPR with GOI officials, as

evidenced by the seriousness with which IPR and the Special

301 list are now viewed. In order to ensure that IPR

protection in Italy is driven by Italians, who are best

equipped to orchestrate successful IP action in their own

country, the Mission is pushing IP industries in Italy to

take the lead in programming events and in letting their

concerns be known to officials. Officers at the Embassy and

Consulates continue to meet regularly with government

officials to push for policy changes that will improve IPR

protection, as well as with members of investigative services

to monitor IPR protection in Italy and to offer consultation.

In addition the Embassy and Consulates continue to work with

industry contacts to support them in their IPR promotion

efforts. Mission officials also raise awareness of the

problems through both public and private comments.

PLEASE CITE AS: Monica Horten (2011) The Italian job - USG sensitised the magistrates

http://www.iptegrity.com 6 September 2011 . This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial purposes, with the author attributed.

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

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