Strange policy changes are afoot in Italy, where the government's Communications Authority has just issued two resolutions that effectively turn YouTube and other video services into TV stations subject to stricter regulation -- and stricter liability for the content they host. Under the new rules, any site that exercises even the smallest amount of editorial control over its content will be considered an "audiovisual service," and have to pay additional taxes, take down videos within 48 hours if anyone complains of slander, and -- most oddly of all -- somehow refrain from broadcasting videos "unsuitable for children" at certain times of the day. (No, we have no idea how that works with an online video site.) Making matters worse, the new rules give creedence to the notion that video service providers are somehow directly responsible for what their users post to the site -- even if the only "editorial control" they exercise is automated and not overseen by actual humans. We'd expect it the new rules to be challenged in Italian court sometime soon, since they effectively make it impossible to run an online video service in the country, and seem to be in opposition to EU rules that protect internet service providers -- and we'll see if YouTube remains available to Italian IP addresses for very much longer.
Oh, and if you're worried this sort of insanity will cross over to the US, you should chillax -- the laws you love to hate are on your side. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the DMCA provide "safe harbor" to internet service providers, making it extremely hard to go after them for the actions of their users. You might remember Section 512, actually -- it played a starring role in knocking down Viacom's lawsuit against Google
and YouTube back in June. You, the DMCA and the CDA, all hanging out and watching YouTube together -- sounds like a lovely afternoon, doesn't it?