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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Â¶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
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.