ENDitorial: Seizures and other abuses – from bad to worse

By EDRi · October 22, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Two recent episodes (that are not “isolated cases”) show, again, how
distortions in Italian laws and in their application can lead to all sorts
of abuses – as discussed before. The problem is that these abuses are not
only continuing, but getting worse.

One is explained in a recent article and is obviously (no matter how it’s
disguised) a case of censorship.

The other case we are discussing here, if taken as a single episode, could
be seen as a comedy of errors. A website for the exchange of music was
“seized” – that is to say, access was blocked. It was soon moved to another
address, and later the “seizure” was revoked. So it didn’t suffer any
serious damage and it may have gained some publicity as a result of the
protest in Italy and elsewhere caused by the attempt to choke it. The
instigators of the repression (as usual, the lobbies of music majors) were
(in this case and so far) defeated and ridiculed. But the procedures in this
grotesque affair reveal several alarming abuses.

Many problems, for many years, have been caused by an awkward peculiarity of
the Italian legislation, that treats copyright infringement as a criminal
offence. And it has always been an awful abuse to seize computers, servers
etcetera with a brutal procedure that is useless for investigation purposes
and dramatically harmful not only for suspects who are “innocent until
proven guilty”, but also for people and organizations who are not involved
in the facts (or assumptions) being investigated.

In recent years this abuse has taken a new twist, that queerly extends the
“seizure” concept to the suppression of a website or if, as in this case,
the website isn’t in Italy, to force Italian internet providers to block
access (or even, as in this example, to arbitrarily re-route the “traffic”
to another foreign website, dedicated to persecuting people who are trying
to access the blacklisted source).

It would be dangerous to underestimate the implications of these behaviors,
too easily supported by internet providers, who care about their selfish
interests above the rights of their customers. They go far beyond the
consequences of individual episodes, suggesting criteria and procedures that
can be extended to the repression of any unwelcome opinion or information,
as well as of enterprises competing with “favored” interests.

To make things even worse, in this case the attack was on a site that
doesn’t offer file sharing, but information on where resources can be found.
This could lead to the absurdity of turning not only connection providers,
but also search engines, into censors, spies and “sheriffs” of the net for
inquiries and prohibitions originating in any country and extending beyond
its borders.

In a “package of rules” recently approved (September 24, 2008) by the
European Union Parliament “measures that would have allowed a control on
internet users were rejected.” Specifically, “the MEPs rejected the idea
that ISPs should filter all downloads and punish the infringers of copyright
rules, being thus transformed into a sort of online police.”

Of course it remains to be seen if and how “good intentions” will be
applied, but in the meantime Italian authorities, once again, appear to be
peculiarly prone in obeying the whims and wishes of the “owners of ideas”
and not as careful as they should in ensuring freedom of opinion and civil

An update on the Italian PirateBay case (8.10.2008)

The European Parliament voted the Telecoms Package (8.10.2008)

ENDitorial: A stupid law and a perverse “criminal” sentence (24.09.2008)

(contribution by Giancarlo Livraghi – EDRi-member ALCEI – Italy)