When the phrase ‘unprecedented among Western democracies’ is used in a derogatory manner you can usually be certain that it’s a story involving everybody’s favourite perma-tanned, Just for Men fan Silvio Berlusconi. The story in this case centres on the Italian prime minister’s government pushing through new measures that would give the state control over online video content and force anyone who regularly uploads videos to obtain a license from the Ministry of Communications.
The news has earned a good deal of scorn from both Google – the owners of YouTube – as well as media commentators across the globe. For instance, Time said this morning, that for Berlusconi, “this isn’t so much an attempt at new media control as it is part of an old story line. The billionaire Prime Minister just happens to own the country’s only major private television network, which critics say is a conflict of interest much more troubling for the country than any of his private dalliances or verbal faux pas.”
The new measures are expected to get final Cabinet approval on 4 February unless opposition parties are able to block them in court. The government’s main target is Google, which is in an ongoing battle with Mediaset (Berlusconi’s media network) over copyright revenue for network programming that winds up on YouTube. The new rules would require internet service providers to remove content the state deems is in violation of copyright law, or face a fine of around €150,000.
“We are concerned over the fact that Internet service providers, like YouTube, that simply make content available to the general public, are being bundled together with traditional television networks that actually manage content,” Marco Pancini, Google’s European affairs chief, told the newspaper La Stampa. “It amounts to destroying the entire Internet system.”