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Censorship Government Your Rights Online

Italy May Censor Torrent Sites 194

Posted by Soulskill
from the giving-them-the-boot dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Following a Pirate Bay block more than a year ago, Italy continues its attempts to censor torrent sites. The Italian Supreme Court has ruled that copyright holders can now force ISPs to block BitTorrent sites, even if they are hosted outside Italy. The torrent sites which 'hold' copyrighted materials are accused of taking part in criminal activity. It seems someone should enlighten Italian jurists about technology."
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Italy May Censor Torrent Sites

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:19AM (#30591770)

    It's not a technological matter. If a country wants to censor a communication medium, it can certainly do so. It will never be 100 percent effective, but censorship does restrict availability of information. We should not fall back to a "we can get around it" position. While that is true, most people will not get around it and controlling their access to information is an undue power.

    • by sopssa (1498795) *

      It's not even about censorship. What The Pirate Bay and others supporting "swedish piracy" fail to see is that your purpose will count in court. No matter the stupid .torrent 'indirect' linking, hash linking, whatever, the judge will look at what your purpose is. This is why the pirate bay failed in court. It is perfectly clear what they are doing. On another note, sweds do have a nice culture, as seen in this tv advertisement [youtube.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by EzInKy (115248)

        I see.

        So what the Pirate Bay should have done was set as its purpose to be a site that told stories about how pirates commit piracy?

        Seeing as how authors and filmmakers very often depend on depicting the details of how criminals commit crimes to sell their wares they should have no problems with sites dedicated to the same.

        One such story might begin thus:

        "Alvin, feeling downtrodden by the corporate masters ruling society, created a .torrent file that contained the following data...(insert link to data here)

    • by DMiax (915735)

      It's not so terrible as censorship, in a sense. As the current copyright law stands, sharing copyrighted material is illegal. The court stated that to prevent illegal behaviour it is legitimate that lower courts order ISPs to block sites that are created to break the law. The same would happen with libel, for example. At least in the highest court of the country we can ask that if something is illegal it should not be allowed. It's a nice principle...

      OTOH we can push for copyright law to be changed, but

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unlike the US, this decision DOES NOT GENERATE A PRECEDENT. this means that applies just to this case, according to italian regulations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Wowsers (1151731)

      Are the Italians that desperate to stop the video of Berlusconi being thumped being available around the world? :)

    • by bwcbwc (601780)

      Yes, the problem here is the legal and political clout wielded by the old media industry, combined with the fact that their business model is so out of tune with the realities of the internet. When your cost structure doesn't allow you to be profitable selling electronic copies at $1.00 instead of disks at $20, you have to resort to other means to stay in business. Hence the heavy-handed attempts to stifle competition.

      Mind you, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the full-blown pirates either. Maybe if you c

      • In some ways it's like the software engineers in the US and Europe who still expect to make $80k-$120k when companies can get multiple engineers and programmers in China and India for the same cost. The internet has changed our competitive landscape, but many of us still haven't adjusted. Even the authors of open source software typically have to keep their day jobs to pay the bills. The problems related to funding software developers in the future landscape are remarkably similar to the issues facing musicians and artists.

        Hold on... you're mixing things. It's not about decadent, spoilt EUsians having to strip themselves of hardly fought for rights to compete with emerging market salaries; that would be like behaving like Renzo's Chickens (a metaphor in Alessandro Manzoni's "Promessi Sposi").
        What next, should we screw environmental regulations (done in certain parts of Italy... illegally but boy, what a bang for the buck!) or abandon safety standards in the name of profitability?

        To be honest your example makes the opposite po

  • Not the point ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by golodh (893453) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:36AM (#30591812)
    Knowing a thing or two about Italy and its love for byzantine legal constructs, I fear that the effectiveness of such measures isn't their primary purpose. Their PR effect, however, is.

    Italy has plenty of laws that would totally paralyze every aspect of public and private life, were they to be rigorously enforced. Such laws look terrific on paper but don't have any practical effect except in lawsuits where they can be (and are) routinely used to club people over the head with. Anyone who has ever driven a car in an Italian city South of Rome (Naples for example, or tried to cross the street in the same city at a pedestrian crossing that's showing a green light for pedestrians) knows all about the practical value of laws in Italy.

    This little decision will satisfy officials who can now tout it as a bold step towards curbing piracy. This is important. Just remember that their prime minister, Berlusconi, owns a whole chain of content-creating enterprises. He can't afford to look "soft on piracy" and retain his credibility in business circles.

    As one or two nerdish forum members may already have figured out, blocking a torrent site or two won't necessarily stop people from finding or downloading torrents. To put it mildly.

    The only thing it *will* do is to slowly erode yet another form of legal freedom in Italy and afterwards in the rest of Europe.

    That's all folks.

    • by the_xaqster (877576) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:18AM (#30591960) Homepage Journal
      The problem will come when another of the EU countries (yes, I am looking at you, England) will hold this law up as a shining example of government doing good, and then enact a law that embraces and extends this law into something completely different, more costly, more annoying, but ultimately just as useless.

      Just don't get me started on what will happen if Brussels gets hold of it....
      • The UK has started already. From some news article: "The government's newest attack against online piracy, the Digital Economy Bill will force Internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor users and penalize infractions." Although the ISPs are protesting it, it's going to go ahead anyways and it's going to up our broadband charges. While slashdotters may complain about the US' poor mobile plans, the UK has far worse broadband plans. We already pay too much for bad service and now we're going to pay more f
        • As soon as this happens, I'll stop paying for the Internet, it's free in a lot of places already so there isn't any real need on my part to have it in the house.
          • by Kijori (897770)

            As soon as this happens, I'll stop paying for the Internet, it's free in a lot of places already so there isn't any real need on my part to have it in the house.

            Don't let it get that far. The bill is not law. It is going to enter committee stage in about a week - this is our best chance to get it changed to be fair for consumers before it gets to the House of Commons and gets even more politicised than it is now. Write to your MP, write to a Lord and explain to them why this is a terrible and unfair bill. Information on the disconnection clauses in the bill and some Lords to write to are available at http://www.digitalwrong.org/?page_id=28 [digitalwrong.org] - I've taken over the sit

            • by Cederic (9623)

              I wrote to my MP, but sadly he's an absolute twat at times (e.g. when breathing).

              • by Kijori (897770)

                No obligation, but if you could forward me a copy of the letter and his reply (if he replied) then I can at least put it online for other people to see - and if his reply is as bad as you make out, get a few hundred letters to him and make this embarrassing.

            • Don't get me wrong, I haven't given up. I've already written to them about this. I'll still check out your website though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Psicopatico (1005433)

      This ruling is just the confirmation of an original one enacted last summer (and promptly suspended) which imposed all major ISPs to block traffic at DNS level.
      Any user using OpenDNS or his own DNS (or GDNS today) wouldn't be affected.
      This is nothing more than the perfect italian way to make politics: life goes on just like before, but the big guys can say that something has beeen done.
      (Yes, i live in italy and feel ashamed of that)

    • by selven (1556643)

      The president is also the head of many large corporations? That itself should be bolded in 72-point font, to truly show the kind of corruption in Italy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Krneki (1192201)
      This stupid laws won't stop Italians from downloading. But it will limit the amount of stuff they can share with the rest of the world.

      Italian culture will suffer from stupid laws like this.
    • by Ash Vince (602485)

      The only thing it *will* do is to slowly erode yet another form of legal freedom in Italy and afterwards in the rest of Europe.

      Do we really need to have the legal freedom to download any digital work without paying the creator of said work? I know whenever I post this I get moderated as a troll but it is a legitimate question. Should we really do away with all IP laws and let people copy and distribute as they see fit?

      Unfortunately we do all need money to live in this world so what is the big problem with trying to make it via selling digital works that can be duplicated endlessly. You still had to put time and effort into creating

      • by Ash Vince (602485)

        While I have great love for the large media conglomerates that hold the copyright on much of what is illegally distributed, I also do not exactly like the idea of starting a business based on taking something else that you had no part in creating, and profiting from it.

        Aww crap, should have used preview. I meant no great love. Guess that might have been a Freudian slip :)

      • by toriver (11308)

        Downloads is far from the only target here.

        How do you ensure the creator gets money for their work? When I enter a record store and buy a CD, I pay the store. Has the store already paid the artist? Will it pay the artist? Are there a load of other intermediaries that want their cut before any money trickle down to the creator?There is no way for me to know. I can just ASSUME that the store has the right to sell me the CD, and whomever it bought them from has the right to sell them to the store and so on.

        (Th

        • by Ash Vince (602485)

          Solution: Go to concerts, or download then pay the artists directly.

          Why should concerts be any different? Most concerts pay the artist a pittance compared to the venue, promoter and everyone else higher up the food chain. Tours by most bands are actually something the record company force them to do in order to sell more records.

          I am all for artists selling there wares directly on websites but very few are able to do this until they have a core of followers who will seek out there music. Up and coming artists have to sign to a label to have any hope of exposing their produc

  • Goodbye EZTV?
  • by mrpacmanjel (38218) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:00AM (#30591896)

    This is extremely worrying.

    Let me get this straight. In previous rulings copyright holders were denied the blocking of sites on the grounds of free speech and censorship.

    The Supreme court gets involved and blocking P2P sites suddenly becomes a good idea?

    We have a Supreme court in the UK and something similar happened recently with "Unfair" bank charges.

    Two (maybe one was an appeal?) court cases were held to decide whether bank charges fell under UK consumer law and thus can be challenged that bank charges were excessive. Both times the courts agreed this was the case.

    The Supreme court got involved and funnily enough ruled that this was not the case which now means banks can charge what they like.

    Since Lord Mandy went on holiday and "bumped into" into Mr Geffen - the recommendations of the digital communications report and the concerns of ISPs were completely ignored. It appears the "3-stikes" legislation is to go ahead after all.
    The EU took a dim view of this policy and warned the UK it was illegal and against the EU principles of free speech and human rights.

    I'm pretty sure the EU slapped-down France the first time France tried to implement this policy too.

    However, recently:
    1)France recently tried a second time and no comment from the EU has been heard.
    2)Lord Mandy's propsed legislation appears to be going ahead.
    3)Italy are ready to censor the internet.

    What happened to suddenly make all these points "agreeable" and not challenged by the EU ?

    There must have been intense lobbying and money used by copyright holders to silence the many critics of these proposals.

    It appears our "democracy" is firmly under the control of commercial entities.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gowen (141411)

      The Supreme court got involved and funnily enough ruled that this was not the case which now means banks can charge what they like.

      No, they can charge the customer agreed to when they opened the account. What the Supreme Court said was "If you don't like the charges, don't open the account. Don't expect the courts to bail you out on something you agreed to."

      And this is good for two reasons:
      i) Personal responsibility is a good thing.
      ii) My banking is free, because people who pay unauthorised-overdraft fe

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrpacmanjel (38218)

        If someone is overdrawn by £2 and then the bank charges a £35 unauthorised-overdraft is "fair"

        If someone is in financial difficulty and the bank keeps charging £35 unauthorised-overdraft fees every month thus compounding the problem. That person could have lost thier job.

        These are not hyperthetical scenarios - this has happened to people I know and to a certain degree myself too.

        I'm all for personal responsibility and "free" banking is nice.

        "..they can charge the customer agreed to.. " - Y

      • by Spad (470073)

        The main issue wasn't really the cost of the charges (even though that's what everyone focuses on), but the inconsistency with which they're applied even within the same bank on the same account. Sometimes it's £10, sometimes it's £25, sometimes it's £40, sometimes it's immediate, sometimes it's after a 7 day warning period, etc. for the same penalty.

        • There is a wider issue over the imbalance in the contracts between banks and customers. When a customer makes a mistake the bank has it in their contract that they get penalised, they do this in a way that is not technically a penalty (which is disallowed by contract law) but walks and quacks like one. The customer has no such opportunity to insert unfair clauses into the contract or even negotiate on the existing ones, the contracts are considered set products and the customer is expected to go elsewhere i

      • No, they can charge the customer agreed to when they opened the account.

        I presume the same goes for loan sharks? You may not agree with laws against unfair contracts but they do exist. I too agree that personal responsibility is a good thing but so is corporate responsibility. Here are some example scenarios to consider:

        i) A customer misses a payment on a loan with their bank, the bank automatically takes the money out of their account anyway causing them to go overdrawn. This eventuality isn't in their contract and does not occur to them because had they a loan with a differen

    • by Kijori (897770) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {ekaj.draw}> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:57AM (#30592066)

      Since Lord Mandy went on holiday and "bumped into" into Mr Geffen - the recommendations of the digital communications report and the concerns of ISPs were completely ignored. It appears the "3-stikes" legislation is to go ahead after all.

      I think you're absolutely right to be worried. I'm going to talk about the UK situation since that's what I know about, but the situation EU-wide is largely as you describe: governments are caving to copyright owners.

      Before saying anything else, it's worth making clear that the "3 strikes" legislation contains nothing to do with three strikes [digitalwrong.org]. It is totally silent on the specifics of the chances that have to be given to internet users before they can be cut off and leaves the question entirely to a "code" that has not yet been written and so cannot be reviewed before the bill becomes law. You can read more about this at the link I gave above. The "new" bill pays lip-service to the Government's "commitment to human rights", and seems to be relying on this "code" to avoid the criticism of the EU. However, as the link above makes clear, it gives the Secretary of State a get-out clause to get past the code if he wants to, with little to no oversight or controls.

      There's a lot of confusion, even on Slashdot, about the content of the bill. To break down the sections on Copyright infringement (taken from http://www.digitalwrong.org/?page_id=6 [digitalwrong.org]), the new process in case of alleged infringement is:

      1. The rightsholder for example a record company determines that the user is infringing. The bill does not set out how this is to be done; the company is in effect free to determine guilt any way they see fit. As has been shown by the cases that have gone to court, this determination is often made on the back of weak or non-existant evidence.
      2. The rightsholder sends a letter to your ISP
      3. Your ISP sends you a warning letter. This will contain information of the time of the infringement and the IP address of the computer that committed it. It will also contain information on securing your network.
      4. If the rights holder judges that infringement has continued after a period of time (not defined in the bill) they may require your ISP to throttle your connection, prevent you from accessing certain resources, or disconnect you completely.
      5. If you believe this was done in error, you can appeal. This appeal would not go to a court, but to a First-Tier tribunal. This would be your first chance to deny the accusations, and could come after the punitive measures had been taken.

      This goes absolutely against the presumption of innocence that is such an important part of a modern democracy.

      If this all sounds a bit worrying, there is some good news. The bill is entering its committee stage on the 6th of January, and this is the best chance to change it before it reaches the House of Commons, at which point its progress will be faster and more subject to the party whip. So please, write to a Lord [digitalwrong.org] and explain to them why the measure is bad, either morally or because - as has even been admitted by the impact assessment - network security means the wrong people will be punished, and what they can do to change it - i.e. go to the open committee session starting on the 6th and change the bill.

      Things are advancing very quickly, and I appreciate that not everyone has time to read the 300+ pages of the bill, the debates, the notes and the impact assessment, so if anyone has any questions on their contents please ask and I will answer them. Otherwise, please write in before it's too late, and spread the word - either online or offline - about the travesty that is the Digital Economy Bill.

      • by cpghost (719344)

        governments are caving to copyright owners.

        Sadly. And the fact that the content industry generates taxes that are badly needed by our nearly-broke governments won't help improve the situation. In an economy that is so reliant on commercializing (and taxing!) imaginary "goods", I have no hope to see those copyright excesses be repelled anytime soon.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kijori (897770)

          Sadly. And the fact that the content industry generates taxes that are badly needed by our nearly-broke governments won't help improve the situation. In an economy that is so reliant on commercializing (and taxing!) imaginary "goods", I have no hope to see those copyright excesses be repelled anytime soon.

          I think we might be coming at this from different points of view. I don't see anything wrong with an economy that is reliant on commercializing "imaginary 'goods'" - in fact I don't really see how we could have anything else. Aside from the content industries, the insurance industry, the stock market, futures trading and any number of other sectors work by commercialising something other than physical goods. And while it may not strictly speaking be stealing, making use of these services without paying does

          • For what it's worth, I wish I had mod points today. It is nice to see posts that don't reduce the whole copyright debate to some sort of all-or-nothing dichotomy, and which acknowledge the idea that you can have a reasonable idea but a flawed implementation. This seems far more constructive than just painting a crude picture of selfish pirates fighting greedy megacorporations, where everyone has extreme views and there is little scope for compromise and finding some middle ground.

            • by Kijori (897770)

              Thank you!

              The internet tends to encourage knee-jerk, poorly thought-out responses, and that makes it much easier for politicians to dismiss the objections to their copyright bills as the delusions of immature online pirates. The discussion of the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Lords over here has been dominated by reference to the "online reaction" - specifically the 23 pages of comments on the original BBC report, characterised by the idea that all media should be free to download and the media compa

              • by Cederic (9623)

                Indeed - my letter to my MP focussed on the lack of legal rigour required to 'punish' someone for alleged illegal downloading and the obvious impact on other innocent household members.

                I did mention that I dislike current copyright laws, but also stated that I do support copyright as a concept, but with far lower timeframes than at present.

                Sadly my MP hasn't responded to me, and based on past evidence is unlikely to vote against the bill in its current incarnation.

                Worse still he's a member of the shadow cab

    • by bwcbwc (601780)

      ACTA negotiations with the US? With everything under the covers, all sides have plausible deniability about who is pushing for the most draconian copyright measures.

    • by Krneki (1192201)
      All the country you have listed, France, Italy and UK are the most e-Fascist oriented in the EU.
  • With the advent of DHT & magnet URIs, the main remaining purpose of torrent sites is search functionality. Since DHT could handle search too, I wonder how long it is until Bittorrent follows the likes of eDonkey / eMule by being largely for peer to peer for pretty much everything.
  • by lbbros (900904) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @07:35AM (#30591996) Homepage

    This is for US/UK people, to clarify things: the Corte di Cassazione (aka the Italian Supreme Court) is indeed the maximum level of interpretation of the law, but its decisions do *not* set precedents. They are mostly used as a guidance, but judges/prosecutors aren't forced to follow such an interpretation (i.e., there is some kind of discretionality).

    It is worth to know here that the same court rejected an accusation on the grounds of copyright infringement because there was no profit involved.

    And no, this has nothing to do with the government. The judicial system is definitely of different views with regards to the government.

  • ... It seems someone should enlighten Italian jurists about technology.

    Err... Italy has worse problems to deal with than petty piracy:

    I don't really give a rat's ass for Torrents of craptacular films that just watching them is a waste of lifetime anyway...

    Saluti & Baci

    • by Krneki (1192201)
      You fail to realize the true problem. It is not about Italians being unable to download stuff from the Net, but it's about Italian culture being unable to be shared with the world.

      Internet is one of the biggest invention of humankind, censoring it so wrong on many levels.
      • Hold on... ... it's not about diffusion of culture. Have a look at the entries of major torrent indexes: it's difficult to find healthy seeds for decent stuff, 99.9% it's rips of rubbish flicks and tv series.

        Preserving and nurturing culture is about shoving our heritage out of forgotten archives on ITMS (or whatever you fancy) and provide easy, cheap access to it. It's a hell of a job and I wouldn't mind dropping 5€ a pop or even paying taxes for this to happen.

        What needs to be done is to take back our

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