After years of pressure from the U.S. and copyright holders, Italy, which has one of the highest piracy rates in Western Europe, last fall passed a law cracking down on the piracy of music, software and other copyrighted products.
But six months after the law passed, the software industry is battling a provision in the measure that it said could contribute to the problem. The concerns relate to a requirement that any software products distributed in Italy must include a sticker issued for a small fee by the Italian Society for Authors and Editors (SIAE), which collects royalties for music and movie producers and other content producers.
Products not carrying the stickers will not enjoy protection under Italian law. The SIAE has said this system will help crack down on counterfeiters.
The Business Software Alliance and others have called on the U.S. Trade Representative to place Italy on its watch list of countries that are failing to protect intellectual property. The BSA argues that the law is in violation of a World Trade Organization agreement because it places conditions on the exercise of intellectual property rights.
The industry is pressing the Italian government to enforce an exemption allowed by the law for business software containing 50 percent or less of musical or visual content.
Software industry representatives also said the sticker is aimed at providing a new source of income for SIAE and could actually contribute to piracy. Because the stickers are easy to obtain, they said, counterfeiters need only affix them to products to give the impression they are legal.
Software makers worry that the provision will increase the costs of selling products in Italy, the fourth-largest software market in Europe, by requiring special packaging for products, and could set a precedent that other European collection societies may follow.
"We will have to pay a toll . . . to get market access into Italy," said Kevin Lara, European legal counsel at Autodesk. "It might snowball and happen across Europe."
An Italian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government is willing to meet with industry representatives to better understand their concerns and improve the law.