Illegal peer-to-peer filesharing a criminal offence

ROME — Hackers punished the Italian government for passing tough a new Internet antipiracy law by bringing down several of the country’s institutional Web sites on Tuesday.

The new law, introduced Friday, makes peer-to-peer pilfering of music, movies and videogames, through services such as Kazaa and WinMX, a criminal offence punishable with up to three years in jail and fines as high as E250,000 ($300,000).

Angry hackers attacked the official Web sites for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government, parliament and SIAE, the state-run body that levies entertainment taxes and pays royalties, jamming them for most of the day in what a government official described as “a denial-of-service aggression.”

Promoted by the local film industry and drafted by Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani, the antipiracy law is considered the most extreme passed to date against peer-to-peer file sharing.

The crackdown, long opposed in parliament, has raised questions over whether it can be enforced and prompted fears that it may result in unfair convictions.

The law, covering all intellectual property on the Web, also is criticized as a repressive means to stem the free flow of information.

“Controversy over this legislation should not lose sight of the fact that it has been drafted in response to the Italian industry’s critical situation,” said Alberto Francesconi, chief of Italy’s national entertainment association Agis.

Trade losses to copyright piracy in Italy last year totaled $686 million, according to the Intl. Intellectual Property Alliance.

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