Italy eyes P2P crackdown


ROME -- In a long-awaited statement on peer-to-peer file-sharing, Italian Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli on Friday said that the practice will be treated as criminal in the future.

P2P sites, which allow for the trading of copyrighted songs, films, TV programs and literary works, have been vigorously attacked in the U.S. and elsewhere, but Italy has been slow to follow suit.

In the past, government officials said that rules governing P2P use were difficult to enforce, and law enforcement almost always turned a blind eye to abuses. But while the practice of halting illegal P2P transfers is no easier to enforce, Rutelli said Friday that significant steps will now be taken.

"The practice of file-sharing is an abuse of intellectual property laws and of copyright protection that has been ignored because it is difficult to enforce," said Rutelli, who also is Italy's vice prime minister. "The freedom of Italian citizens will not be limited, but this illegal activity must be halted."

The new rules will be enforced only for sites hosted within Italy, the government said.

The minister's statement came less than a week after consumer association Altroconsumo delivered a petition to the ministry calling for action.