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A new dawn for the ISP’s liability in Italy?

28 marzo 2018 -

Di Marco Bellezza, Filippo Frigerio e Portolano Cavallo

 

With a landmark decision, the Court of Appeals of Rome clarifies ISP liability’s boundaries for libelous contents online. If no order is issued by the competent administrative or judicial authority there cannot be any liability under the provisions of the Legislative Decree no. 70 of 2003 that implemented in Italy the E-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC).

Differently from what happens with copyright/IP claims, defamation complaints raised with ex-parte cannot reasonably be taken into account to firmly deem a hosting provider like Wikimedia “on notice” of the presence of unlawful contents, triggering its obligation to take down the content to avoid liability.

 

1. Background

Mr. Cesare Previti, a former Italian politician, alleged he retrieved defamatory statements included in his biography on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, whose services are provided by the Wikimedia Foundation (“Wikimedia”) based in San Francisco.

He alleged he sent a take-down notice to Wikimedia, but got no response.  Therefore Mr. Previti started a mediation proceedings, as requested under the at-that-time applicable law, i.e. Leg. Decree no. 104 of 2010 (later struck down by the Constitutional Court).  Wikimedia informed him it was not interested in settling because it deemed itself not liable in the case at hand.

Therefore, in 2012 Mr. Cesare Previti filed a suit pursuant to Section 702-bis CPC towards Wikimedia to have the latter condemned for failure to remove the at-issue allegedly defamatory statement.

The petitioner deemed Wikimedia co-liable in the defamation, together with the bio’s author under general provisions on torts enshrined in Sections 2043 and 2055 of the Italian Civil Code, for failure to remove allegedly libelous content notwithstanding both the take-down notice and the mediation notice.

Moreover, in claimant’s opinion, Wikimedia would not be shielded under the e-commerce legislation limitation of liability, since Wikimedia would not qualify as an Internet service provider.



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