There is a long tradition of copyright in Italy. Law 633, issued in 1941, was the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary and quite anticipatory law in Europe, protecting the property rights of writers, playwrights, scriptwriters, musicians, and visual artists. It was even extended to droit de suite, although this part was not enacted. Responsibility for the collection of copyright royalties in all the above mentioned artistic disciplines was entrusted to SIAE (Societa Italiana Autori Editori).
This basic law was followed by several others, specifically designed to comply with European directives. It should be noted, though, that it was not until 2000 – when responsibilities on copyright, previously attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, were transferred to MIBACT – that Law 248/2000 acknowledged the dramatic technological changes that occurred in the cultural and communication system as a whole in the last sixty years. The law significantly established much stricter criminal and administrative sanctions against piracy, which has become a remarkable and widespread phenomenon in Italy, as well as a constant source of contention with commercial partners. Subsequently, Decree 72/2004 provided for heavy fines and other administrative sanctions aimed at fighting the illegal distribution of films and audiovisual material protected by copyright on the web.
As far as a tax on “private copying” is concerned, Law 193/1992 introduced a tax on blank audiotapes and videotapes in order to compensate authors and producers for the economic damage they suffered from private copying for exclusively personal use. The amount of this tax has been updated by Ministerial Decrees in 2009, and again in 2014.
The problem of better reconciling the rights to protect artistic and literary creation with the rights to a less restricted utilisation of digital content on the web, penalising access to culture in particular for younger generations, is a controversial matter. Considering the fast pace of technological innovation – as well as the failure of the French Hadobi Law, which has been finally rejected – dealing with such a rapidly evolving matter has become for the Minister for the Heritage a quite complicated issue, calling on – as he recently stated before the Parliament – “social bombing” by consumers…
A further legislative measure in the copyright field has finally been the much delayed adoption, by Leg. Decree 118 of February 2006, of the European Directive 2001/84/Ce, concerning droit de suite for visual artists – that is the right for artists to benefit from the possible increase in the value of their work by getting a percentage of commercial transactions subsequent to the first one. This legislation finally implemented the above mentioned anticipatory legal provisions adopted in the framework of copyright Law 633/1941, which had been hindered also because of problems related to the notorious lack of transparency of the Italian art market. If the implementation of Decree 118 could help to bring more transparency into the field, European legislation would have had – indeed – an additional positive outcome. On the other hand a controversial aspect of the Decree has dealt with its provision for an immediate application of droit de suite also in favour of the heirs of the dead artists, as – unlike other countries – Italian legislators did not take advantage of the transitional period established by the European Directive, in order to allow the living artists to be the main beneficiaries of this long awaited measure.
The law finally came into force in 2008, after the adoption of the implementing regulation by Presidential Decree 275/2007. The related rights, along with all the other copyrights, are collected by SIAE and redistributed to the artists or their heirs.
Another additional measure has been Law 286/2006, providing for the much delayed introduction of “lending rights” in public libraries, by establishing a Fund for public lending rights. Access to the fund has been regulated by Law 25/6/2013, and its implementation has been entrusted again to SIAE.