IPTV Pirates in Italy told a VPN is a Must Due to Censorship Law

Italian TV pirate

In Italy, the game of cat and mouse between online pirate streaming sites and the authorities is in full swing

Pirate sites are now making VPN use mandatory, a move which, somewhat bizarrely has been welcomed by the head of Italian Telecoms regulator AGCOM, Torrentfreak revealed.

Italian censorship law

Back in July, Italy passed a new law that was intended to tackle online pirates. It authorised the widespread internet blocking of sites broadcasting pirated streams and also legislated for harsher punishments for pirates and those who watch their streams.

The new law was dubbed Piracy Shield and included fines of up to €5,000 for anyone caught streaming pirated content.

The news was widely welcomed by broadcasters and football teams, which are the main victims of pirating in Italy. But, as is so often the case with laws of this type, the authorities totally overlooked how easy it would be for Italian viewers to bypass this new Piracy Shield using a VPN.

Using a VPN to bypass Piracy Shield

A fine of €5,000 is a lot of money for most people, and doubtless the authorities in Italy hoped this would act as a deterrent.

But the reality is that the costs of a pirate stream and a VPN to protect your online security and privacy and unblock pirate sites are still an awful lot less than the huge subscription costs you have to pay to watch premium TV content and live sports coverage.

The pirate sites know this too, and that’s why many have reached out to viewers, requiring them to use a VPN to keep themselves (and, of course, the pirate site and those who operate it as well) safe.

In one such example, Studio Previti linked to an article from Il Sole 24 Ore, which wrote to its users saying, “Dear Customers, I wanted to inform you that from October 1, the AGCOM action will come into effect. Therefore, it is mandatory to use a VPN.”

The bizarre AGCOM response

This message came to light from an unexpected source: Massimiliano Capitanio, head of telecoms regulator AGCOM.

He later posted on LinkedIn to say, “The fact that criminal organisations, which run the piracy business, are inviting their ‘customers’ to hide behind VPN systems is positive news.”

It’s an odd response and seems to be rooted in the fact that the Piracy Shield laws allow AGCOM to block domains and IP Addresses where pirated content appears, even if it is not where it originates from.

Capitanio also suggested that using a VPN indicated that people knew they were breaking the law, which would mean more fines of up to €5,000.

What he seems to be blissfully unaware of is the anonymity that VPNs give to their users.

As long as an Italian viewer of pirated content is using a VPN and has the common sense to enable their kill switch to ensure that if their VPN drops out, their internet connection is immediately cut as well, it is hard to see how AGCOM or anyone can know who is watching pirated content.

Likewise, even if the Italian authorities identify the IP Addresses of VPNs that are facilitating the viewing of pirated content, which is in itself highly unlikely, VPN providers often cycle IP addresses for other reasons.

AGCOM seems to be of the view that it has the upper hand in the battle against online piracy in Italy. But it clearly has little or no understanding of how VPNs work, and once they do get a grip of this, they are in for a nasty surprise.

We do not condone the watching of pirated content in contravention of the law in Italy or anywhere else.

But we also do not condone the type of arbitrary and widespread censorship that Italy has introduced with its so-called Piracy Shield law.

Most of all, however, it never ceases to amaze us how many legislators around the world fail to take into account the role that VPNs can play in easily, simply, and affordably, undoing the type of censorship that they spend many years introducing.

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 7 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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