New Italian law may have unintentionally legalized MP3 sharing

A new copyright law in Italy making its way through Parliament seems to suggest that trading in MP3s would become legal so long as no profit is made from its distribution.

The law states that music or images that are at "degraded or low resolution" can be distributed on the Internet "for scientific or educational use, and only when such use is not for profit," according to a rough translation.

Experts that have reviewed the law told the Italian daily La Repubblica that even though MP3's are not specifically mentioned, the fact that the word degraded is used implies the existence of that format, which is by technical definition a "lossy" format that loses some fidelity through degradation. An MP3 is essentially a lower-quality form of the original recording.


While to the untrained ear this difference may not be heard, there is still some degree of loss of quality. As to the scientific and educational use requirements, experts say that a literal reading of the law would make an education-based P2P system or a discussion group on the music of an artist as permissible uses.

Politicians may have not intended to make MP3s legal, Italian internet copyright lawyer Andrea Monti told the paper, but may have not necessarily realized that MP3 is indeed a 'degraded format.'

Regardless, with it already approved by both the Italian chamber and Senate, it would take effect as soon as it is published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale. According to Wikipedia, the newspaper holds special regard because a law must be published in it in order to take effect.

The head of the Federation of Italian Music, Enzo Mazza, says the group is not concerned by the law because he expects the government to set strict guidelines as to who can qualify for those scientific and educational purposes.

But Monti disagrees, saying that the constitution would allow any Italian citizen to claim that purpose in the use of music.

The full story, in Italian, can be viewed on La Repubblica's Web site.

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