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Italian Parliament To Mistakenly Legalize MP3 P2P 223

Posted by kdawson
from the need-a-do-over dept.
plainwhitetoast recommends an article in La Repubblica.it — in Italian, Google translation here. According to Italian lawyer Andrea Monti, an expert on copyright and Internet law, the new Italian copyright law would authorize users to publish and freely share copyrighted music (p2p included). The new law, already approved by both legislative houses, indeed says that one is allowed to publish freely, through the Internet, free of charge, images and music at low resolution or "degraded," for scientific or educational use, and only when such use is not for profit. As Monti says in the interview, those who wrote it didn't realize that the word "degraded" is technical, with a very precise meaning, which includes MP3s, which are compressed with an algorithm that ensures a quality loss. The law will be effective after the appropriate decree of the ministry, and will probably have an impact on pending p2p judicial cases.
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Italian Parliament To Mistakenly Legalize MP3 P2P

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  • Are you reading this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hostyle (773991)
      Er, wasn't oink's claim to fame that it served up non-degraded music, ie. the best quality possible?
      • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:27PM (#22262336) Homepage
        It was indeed...release a 320 bit rate MP3, and it still would technically be considered degraded...not to mention it would be more or less indistinguishable between it a loseless file...unless you are a stuck up audiophile that also believes a multi-thousand dollar cable makes a difference [pearcable.com])
        • by edittard (805475) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:31PM (#22262420)
          This is an announcement: A long offtopic flamewar about how vinyl is (or isn't) so much better than any form of digital reproduction will be along momentarily. We now return to your scheduled programming.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sm62704 (957197)
          No audiophile needed, nor any rediculously priced cables.

          I've made mix CDs for my car. Some of the tunes are 320 bit rate MP3s my daughter got somewhere (don't ask, don't tell) and some are straight bit for bit copies from the CD. It's a good six speaker system, but far from audiophile. And at 55 years old I hardly have "golden ears". But I can hear the difference between the MP3s and the straight CD rips.

          Now with your typical two little speakers and a "subwoofer" (we used to have bigger woofers, in fact my
          • by Pojut (1027544)
            I know there is a difference (and, naturally, the better the sound system the more you can tell) but still...320 bit rate MP3s still sound great, especially if you have a CD player that can read MP3s directly from a disc.
            • by sm62704 (957197)
              I won't argue with that, I rip CDs to MP3s and let XMMS play them randomly, they take a whole lot less disk space. They're good enough. But I won't burn a CD from an MP3 unless that's all I have.

              By the same token, back in the analog days I'd buy an LP and on the first play I'd record it to cassette, and keep the LP as pristine as possible. The cassette's quality wasn't as good as the LP it was recorded from but it was nearly as good, and good enough.
          • To be far I've had some CDs with pretty crappy audio quality, in some cases so bad I was tempted to just throw away the CD in disgust. Without knowing the quality of the input audio those MP3s were ripped from you can't be a judge of them. A more valid experiment would be to take a CD, rip some of it's tracks to 320 bit MP3, and play the CD and ripped tracks through the same speaker system. It's important not to burn those MP3s back to CD because now you've done two conversions (CD->MP3->CD) and added
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by aesiamun (862627)
              Burning an mp3 to a cd does no further conversion.

              Whether i read an mp3 from my ipod, my cd player or from a hard drive it's the same mp3, the only difference will be the decoder used.
              • Furthermore, converting the MP3 back to WAV and burning it does no extra conversions either. It just makes the decoding take place in the computer instead of in the player.
          • by richlv (778496)
            so it basically seems to be that you are claiming a capability of differing between 320b mp3 and wav (the original cd).
            well, ask your daughter to do a blind test on you. get some cds, ask her to rip wavs and mp3s with 320b quality. then do a blind test.
            really, if you will be able to tell the difference on all of them all the time, you will be a unique person ;)
      • So invert one of the bits near the start or end and you'll have degraded the quality (un-noticeably, but measurably!)
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:04PM (#22261974) Journal
    Pirate Bay is rumored to move its operations to Italy.
    • No, they couldn't share software or FLAC
    • by eiapoce (1049910)
      Don't rate the parent funny, insightful is better:
      A italian judge has recently dropped charges against 3 link share websites (Ranging from edonkeyitalia to Bittorrent.com) because linking to copyrighted material is not the same as distributing copyrighted matierial and does not infringe the law. The IFPI immediatly stated that this does not affect end users that are still accountable, and that's partly true: Here the law states that downloading for personal use and without profit is not a felony so you can
      • I love this post. I laughed so hard when I read the last part. And it's so true! I am half italian and this part of italian mentality is very well known to me. See Napoli these days: succumbing under a pile of trash, people protest and burn the junk, but then pretty soon they go home for dinner and eat a nice plate of pasta ca pummarola n'coppa and all is fine and dandy, and nothing will improve.

        Imagine trash on the streets of Finland or Japan. Hard, isn't it?
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Isn't the Music And Film Association of America originally from Italy? Wasn't it spun off from the Los Angeles Cinema Organization Screen Association / National Orginization Screening Reserve Association?
    • by beckerist (985855)
      http://www.eztv.it/ [www.eztv.it] EZTV already did...
  • Mistakenly? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:06PM (#22262002) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps it wasn't a mistake and was intentional.
    • Re:Mistakenly? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:47PM (#22262668) Journal

      Perhaps it wasn't a mistake and was intentional.
      Your statement makes me wonder how much you know about:
      A) Italy's government
      B) The knowledge of 50+ yr old career politicians w/regards to technology
      • by yorugua (697900) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:28PM (#22263392)

        B) The knowledge of 50+ yr old career politicians w/regards to technology


        And what about the marketing/mafia/legal knowledge of the NASA technology experts radiating "across the universe" from The Beatles to the whole Universe? I sense a massive URIAA (universal Riaa) and his legal team from Omicron IV to beat the hell out those NASA nerds. Or is it going to be transmitted with DRM? The amount of cease-and-desist-letters rain coming from outer space will make the leonids a picnic. Just imagine, we discover an extraterrestrial life form represented by: their lawyers. We could be starting a war here. The rammifications are endless.

        http://gizmodo.com/351542/space-aliens-first-to-get-drm+free-beatles-music [gizmodo.com]

        TFA:
        You may have heard that at 7pm EST on Feb. 4, NASA plans to blast The Beatles' song "Across the Universe" into deep space in order to serenade otherworldly beings hundreds, thousands or millions of light years away with our very best pop music. I have several problems with this.

        For starters, NASA: You got the choice of the entire Beatles catalog, and you pick a song only because it contains a relevant metaphor? I mean, have you ever listened to Revolver? Wait, actually, you clearly must've, since Paul McCartney performed "Good Day Sunshine" in Nov. 2005 for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. If you're aiming at aliens, why not choose something a little less intelligible, like "Dig a Pony," "Come Together" or "Tomorrow Never Knows." If those weren't written for space aliens, I don't know what.

        Next on my shitlist: EMI and Apple Corp. WTF???? I've been a lifelong fan of your stupid Fab Four, but you're giving six billion purple globules from the Crab Nebula a shot at digitally retrieving The Beatles before I get one single measly 99-cent download? How is that fair? (Of course, the complete Beatles catalog is already on my iPod, but still!)

        And finally, a message to the Crab people: Don't trust these downloads. You'll see the file streaming into your antenna array and you'll be like, "Sweet! Free music!" But then you open the file, and you get this message on your Crab Nebula equivalent of Windows Media Player 11, saying that in order to enjoy this track, you need to get authorization from a central server. You click okay, and the message has to travel back to earth, taking another 50,000 years or so. Which may seem worth the wait, only the track itself expires in 30 days.

        So good luck to you, purple Crab people. And GFY, recording industry. You have dissed me for the last time. [Network World via The Inquirer]

  • Meaning of words (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pthor1231 (885423) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:06PM (#22262004)
    IANAL, but just because something has a technical definition doesn't mean it can't a completely different meaning when used in a legal context. Besides, you would still have to argue that listening to the latest Crappy McPop artist is educational or scientific in use.
    • by rakuen (1230808) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:08PM (#22262040) Homepage
      Oh that's easy. We're simply studying how the combination of 0s and 1s can result in the most horrid sounds known to humanity.
    • by techpawn (969834)

      Besides, you would still have to argue that listening to the latest Crappy McPop artist is educational or scientific in use.
      I have a large variety of MP3 files to better understand the file format for possible future creation of my own codec... Does that work for ya?
    • by Kenoli (934612) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:09PM (#22262056)
      The intentionally misinterpreted version of a definition is the only version that really matters.
    • by Bogtha (906264) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:25PM (#22262312)

      just because something has a technical definition doesn't mean it can't a completely different meaning when used in a legal context.

      Sure, but if the word is being used with a different meaning to how it is commonly used, then the law has to define that meaning. Does this law do that?

      Also, I don't speak Italian, but as far as English is concerned, it's not merely a "technical" definition, the common meaning of the word "degraded" applies to the MP3 encoding process. The mistake, if any, isn't that the word was used incorrectly, it's that they didn't define the level of degradation necessary.

    • Definition (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DrYak (748999) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:35PM (#22262470) Homepage

      IANAL, but just because something has a technical definition doesn't mean it can't a completely different meaning when used in a legal context.


      That would have required that the law exactly defined the meaning "a bassa risoluzione o degradate" (it:low resolution or degraded). See for example how copyright law functions in most countries (except in country that killed their Fair Use like the US) : "fair use" allows you to ignore the interdiction to copy, and then the law usually explain with great details what constitutes faire use and what not (backup, format-shift, quotes/citations, etc...)

      It's not the case with the Italian law, it just says "low res or degraded". So normally one would expect to reasonably interpret the law. Now most of the data you find on P2P networks are recompressed, using lossy algorithm. You can mathematically prove in an indisputable way that this step degrades the data by introducing artefacts and approximations (the strategy by which lossy algorithms actually manage to compress data). You can also show that a lot of movie may have a lower resolution (16:9 widescreen 720x576 to square pixel 640x360 is a common conversion, lower PDA- and handheld-console compatible resolution are also found).

      Thus how the law will be interpreted is : "lossy MP3, OGG/Vorbis and X264 repacks non-for-profit are OK ; WAVs, FLACs, straigh-ripped 8GB ISO or for profit are NOT".

      If the local antenna of MPAA is unhappy, this interpretation will have to be challenged in court and set a precedent. But as I said before, the degradation induced by repacking using lossy compression is mathematically provable and the corporation will have a hard time trying to prove that exchanging MP3 on a P2P network infringes on this law.

      Corporation will probably settle for the more easy route exploiting "The Pirate Bay" hole, trying to prove that during the operation some profit was made and thus the sharer are infringing on the "not for profit" part of the law.

      Or will push around to force distributors to use copyrighted media into already already converted into lossy format (selling DRMed lossy music files instead of CDs, or moving the DVB-T transmission to MPEG-4/H263 and AVC/H264 so people won't need to recompress from MPEG2), so that either the p2p user will exchange the same files as the copyrighted material (and break the law) or that the p2p users will have to further compress the files (introducing additional degradation and lowering the quality to the point that legally authorised p2p won't be interesting).

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        If the local antenna of MPAA is unhappy, this interpretation will have to be challenged in court and set a precedent.

        And this is one of the things I hate about politicians.

        They have, in their heads, an understanding of what they want the law to mean & how/where it should be applied.... then they generally write the broadest possible language and will actively refuse to narrow it down to whatever their original intentions are.[/pet peeve]

        This is the legislative equivalent of "Bank Error In Your Favor", but more often than not, the error constricts the public's actions.

      • by jgoemat (565882) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:05PM (#22263014)
        You are thinking it's degraded from 44khz WAV files, and that's true. However since MP3s are actually being sold now through online music stores, you would have to argue that these are degraded compared to the actual product being sold. Look at your DVD analogy. You say you couldn't upload an 8gb ISO of a DVD, but isn't that 'degraded' from the original masters or even the HD-DVD version? Certainly if you bought a 256kbit MP3 from Amazon and shared it you wouldn't consider that 'degraded' since it is exactly what you purchased, right?
        • However since MP3s are actually being sold now through online music stores, you would have to argue that these are degraded compared to the actual product being sold.

          On the other hand, when some user converts the CD tracks into MP3 and puts them on P2P, and the MP3 found on webstores aren't the same product. At all.
          That would be claiming copyright infringement on some picture you took with your camera of some public monument - on the ground that an artist is selling a poster of the same monument and your p

      • most of the data you find on P2P networks are recompressed, using lossy algorithm. You can mathematically prove in an indisputable way that this step degrades the data by introducing artefacts and approximations

        But which is the more reasonable interpretation of "degraded": a mathematically demonstrable change in the data, or an audibly perceptible change?

        If a typical listener cannot distinguish between a CD audio track and a 256kbps MP3 rip of the same track in a blindfold test, can the latter really be con
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          Keeping in mind that the law is in Italian, if 'degraded' is an accurate translation than any degredation could meet the requirements - even if imperceptable. Like a radio signal, for example.

          In audio and video, especially in pre-processing/recording you record much more information than what's perceptable, gives you more room for editing before artifacting becomes perceptable.

          Think of it like amplifying a quiet instrument so you can hear tones that would otherwise be imperceptable, or zooming in on an ima
    • by tindur (658483)

      Besides, you would still have to argue that listening to the latest Crappy McPop artist is educational or scientific in use.
      But you can't degrade the music by Crappy McPop.
    • by digitig (1056110)
      Maybe they're learning what the latest Crappy McPop artist sounds like?
  • Legal actions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fri13 (963421) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:07PM (#22262018)
    "for scientific or educational use, and only when such use is not for profit."

    And what is educational use? I think there is somewhere a law what tells it is for education when it is used on schools or any other official educational usage. But not on personal usage, what would still be illegal.
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:17PM (#22262166) Journal
    As a pompous audiophile, this does me absolutely no good whatsoever. On the other hand, the crown icon has given me an excellent idea for enhancing the performance of my 24 karat gold speaker cables by encrusting them with gems.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:17PM (#22262178)
    TFA suggests that the proponents didn't understand "degraded", but actually the lawmakers got it very right.

    This will keep ordinary people happy in Italy and allow the community sharing that comes naturally, while ensuring that the *ACTUAL* music product of the labels (CDs of uncompressed WAV data) are excluded and therefore protected from sharing, or er ... "piracy".

    Note that music fans will continue to buy the CDs of the favorite bands regardless of file sharing --- that's what fans do. The sharing is really just free promotion.

    Of course, the labels will hate it, but then they hate anything other than open access to peoples' wallets.
    • You've got to be kidding. Were you around in 1999-2001? People in college dorms would fire up Napster, download music as crappy 128kbps MP3s - you know, where high-frequency stuff like cymbals and hi-hats sound like hissing snakes - and blast the music at parties and in the common areas. No one bought a single CD.
      • by edwdig (47888)
        People in college dorms would fire up Napster, download music as crappy 128kbps MP3s - you know, where high-frequency stuff like cymbals and hi-hats sound like hissing snakes - and blast the music at parties and in the common areas. No one bought a single CD.

        I can't speak for you, but most people I knew ended up buying a lot more CDs when Napster was around than they did after. Download a few songs, realize you like the band / album, then go out and buy it. The people who weren't buying more CDs were the pe
  • by saxonw12 (1160467) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:23PM (#22262264)
    If I were an Italian kid I know what my school science project would be. I'd be researching the effects of popularity on the speed of music downloads in certain p2p protocols...
    • by KillerBob (217953)
      See... you can study that without retaining the data once it's downloaded... what you really need to study are the long-term effects on consumer electronics from the frequent downloading/listening to of music, and the economics of long-term storage of said data.
  • by EvilGrin5000 (951851) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:25PM (#22262316)
    Reading the original article and then the translation, I noticed that the translation unfortunately could not comprehend some of the key terms that make the article more succulent to the reader.

    The important caveat is that although the lawyer (Monti) says that this was a mistake, it will not pose too many problems while it gets fixed. He says that while in the mean time, the law be enforced in such a way that only websites that belong to scientific or academic institutions will be allowed to host these mp3s and it will not even cover websites from professors or scientists even if for scientific or teaching purposes. This was said despite the fact that the Italian law allows anyone to make a website that accomplishes the same things (teach or do research or whatever). Monti said that it will be easier to regulate it in this fashion while the bill gets changed.

    The previous example cited was kind of butchered from the translation as well. It said that in 2000 another mistake in the use of technical jargon created a law that legalized all pirated satellite TV decoder cards. Although the law was eventually changed, all charges had to be dropped on current pirates of said cards in the mean time.

    They expect the same to happen while they fix this new mishap.

    Being Italian myself and seeing the current state of the government (what government) I'm not entirely sure that this didn't happen on purpose to allow current charges to be dropped and so on and so forth...Call me paranoid, but if you've lived in Italy as a citizen, then you'll know what I mean.

    My two euros.
  • Higher authorities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:30PM (#22262394)

    The law will be effective after the appropriate decree of the ministry, and will probably have an impact on pending p2p judicial cases.

    ...Which will shortly be reversed when higher courts at European level find that such a law in Italy is in conflict with the relevant European directives.

    Sorry to rain on your parade, but this will last about as long as the shenanigans in France a few years ago.

  • ... so we'll just spread the word as far and wide as possible before it's done. Surely nobody in Italy reads Slashdot (or the news), so they'll never clue in and act to prevent this...
  • Mistakenly? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:42PM (#22262588) Journal
    In related news, last decade the US Congress mistakenly passed the DMCA.

    In other related news, Springfield's paper is reporting [sj-r.com] (DOH!) that "Two men were caught Wednesday night with hundreds of DVDs and compact discs, packaged for illegal resale, inside their car... A police report indicated one of the men was arrested; however, a check of jail records showed he was not booked in."

    Good thing those guys were just selling 500 bootleg DVDs and 500 bootleg CDs. If they'd ripped them to (degraded) MP3 and posted them for free on the internet, lets do the math here at $100,000.00 per track...

  • And as a latin country produces a *lot* of funny and wrong laws :)
    Gladly in Brazil there is not this quality restriction, we are free to share (without any money involved) from user to user.
    But people selling those can go to jail (even that I bet no one so far ever did).
    • "we are free to share (without any money involved) from user to user."

      Are we? I didn't know that.

      A few years ago there were news of some people that got into legal problem for sharing music, but I've never saw the results.

      • by protomala (551662)
        Yes it is. The case is that when you read those advertising saying the copying copyrighted material you are just looking for a part of the law, not it's full glorty :) You can have more details in the following links (portuguese):
        http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirataria_moderna [wikipedia.org]

        Not even buying pirated material is a crime in brazil, but selling one is. So if you just give way, share with your friends or even put it into the web, it's not crime.

        Don't forget even president Lula watched a pirated version of
  • Which /. editor approved of this article?

    Did that editor realize he was giving some unwanted a hint?

  • by houghi (78078) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:01PM (#22262922)
    Is it wise to share the information now? ASs the law is not in effect, it still can be stopped.
  • Back in the day.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Bootleg recording collectors will remember that Italy was the source of many "Recordings of Indeterminate Origin". IIRC the law was that the bootleg producer would open up a bank account and deposit a small royalty for each copy produced. The money was made available to the artist to claim (thus legitimizing the bootleg).
  • What is the tradition in Italian law for terms such as this? Is the technical definition used, or is it customary to accept the layperson definition? Chalk me up to the group that can't tell any appreciable difference between a decent bitrate MP3 and a lossless format.
  • The law will be effective after the appropriate decree of the ministry, and will probably have an impact on pending p2p judicial cases.

    Unless their legal system works differently from ours, new laws are generally not retroactive, so pending cases would be bound by whatever law was in effect at the time the offense was committed. Of course, IANAL.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      IANAL but AFAIK here in Italy, if with a new law something BECOMES illegal, then that law can't be retroactive and you can't be judged for what you did BEFORE the law came out.
      But if with a new law something that was illegal becomes legal, then in pending judicial cases defendants are acquitted because "the fact isn't offence anymore".
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday February 01, 2008 @02:19PM (#22264244) Homepage
    Interesting, so on the tails of 15 years of technically ignorant Internet legislation having unintended consequences prohibiting various legitimate behavior, there is one law that might pass in one country on the face of the Earth where they might accidentally reduce the scope of executive power in a technical field depending on the court's interpretation of "degraded". Fascinating.

    I think it serves best as the exception that proves the rule; ignorance in the legislative, executive, and judicial processes tends to lead to oligarchy designed by moneyed (or otherwise potent) special interests.
  • This would be fantastic news if I were still downloading MP3's on a dialup connection. Nowadays the Internet is faster, hard drives are bigger, and I want FLAC. I don't think this law is going to help FLAC users.

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