A division of the Italian government responsible for dealing with financial crime has raided and shut down 10 websites accused of illegally distributing subscription editorial content. Operation Phoenix has also resulted in the arrest of five individuals thus far, with a further five overseas websites blocked by attacking their DNS.
Every year dozens of file-sharing websites are raided, blocked or otherwise attacked by authorities seeking to clamp down on the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted content. With the entertainment industries the main driving force, protection of their content always gets the most attention.
However, developments now being reported by the Italian government shows that authorities are prepared to get tough with people aiming to make money off the back of other web-based content.
According to an announcement by the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a law enforcement agency under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance, coordinated national action has now been taken to prevent the unauthorized distribution of subscription editorial content.
Following an investigation carried out by the Special Unit for Broadcasting and Publishing, a number of individuals were identified as being responsible for the unauthorized publication of national and international newspapers and periodicals to the web without permission from rightsholders. In other words, news pirates.
The GdF says that following authorization from Rome Prosecutor’s office, ‘Operation Phoenix’ targeted locations in Naples, Carbonia-Iglesias, Brescia, Rome, Frosinone and Turin. Five Italian nationals were arrested on suspicion of being behind a total of 15 websites offering pirated news content including digital copies of subscription newspapers.
Ten local websites were raided and shutdown while five websites based overseas were blocked by interfering with their DNS records. Various items of computer equipment were also seized.
According to the GdF the operation was made possible following the introduction of a new system developed by the leading national media groups which enables the tracking of digital copies online. It said that the same principles applied in file-sharing cases were utilized in the current investigation.
“The enforcement efforts put in place by the Guardia di Finanza were made even more effective thanks to the innovative method of investigation based on the principle of ‘Follow the Money’,” the GdF said.
The authorities say they were led to the suspects after tracking the financial resources that connect the operators of the pirate sites to the suppliers of the adverts that appeared on their platforms.
According to the GdF a recent study on what it terms “the Italian publishing crisis” revealed that piracy of editorial content resulted in lost sales amounting to 400,000 copies of news articles each day during 2014. It claims that a five-year decline in sales has led to 4,800 jobs being lost in the sector.