ALCEI Press Release – Mar. 14, 2004

Should music, video or software copying be treated as terrorism?
Another Italian law against the internet adds more problems for communication freedom and human rights. The decree-law issued by the Italian government on March 12, 2004 [1] adds to an already long list of laws and rules that, with a variety of pretexts, interfere with freedom and personal rights.

Its alleged purpose is to “urgently intervene on matters of cultural goods and properties”. It does nothing that relates to such objectives – and of course there is no “urgency”, except for the government”™s desire to put the rules in place before they are discussed in parliament.

A detailed analysis (also in English [2] ) of the faults and problems of this “decree law” is available on the ALCEI [3] website

The original draft of this decree included some of the messy rulings on data retention that had been placed in the December 24, 2003 decree (that became a law on February 26, 2004, with a few mild amendments in parliament that don”™t change its substance – see the ALCEI statement [4] on that matter.) They were removed before the new decree was issued. Repressive regulation now comes from another angle: unnecessary and improper “innovation” on the already distorted and warped legislation on copyright. Introducing additional restrictions and violations of personal and human rights.

This decree-law is a messy and poisonous mixture of unrelated issues, treating peer-to-peer sharing of music, video or software with criteria that were conceived to fight terrorism. The result is useless, ineffective and dangerous.

It”™s useless because it does not provide any useful tool for the prevention of serious crime (such as terrorism and violence.)

It”™s ineffective because it”™s cumbersome and poorly conceived, therefore likely to produce dispersion of energies, uncontrolled persecution of innocent people, overloading of inquires with no sense or purpose, cluttering of police proceedings and already overburdened law courts, getting in the way of any useful activities for the persecution and prevention of serious crime.

It”™s dangerous because it introduces, in matters where it”™s totally unacceptable, the persecution of “intention”, whereby people can be punished not for hat they have done, but for what is assumed they might “intend” to do. (If such a violation of basic human rights and principles of law can, sometimes, be admissible in the case of extreme violence, such as terrorism, it”™s obviously intolerable that it be extended to situations where there is no danger for the life and safety of people and institutions).

Like many other such laws it reveals, in the redundancies of its text, a specific desire to control the internet and interfere with the freedom of people using communication networks.

The absurdity and the repressive purpose of this decree are revealed also by specific rulings.

As soon as this ruling is in place, DIGOS (roughly the Italian equivalent of the FBI) in addition to its key role (dealing with organized crime, terrorism and the safety of State) will have to waste its time and energies chasing people who exchange or own copies of music, film or software. Thus diverting vital national resources to the exclusive advantage of a few rich and powerful companies (who, with previously existing laws, already have the absurd privilege of any violation of their contracts being treated as criminal offense).

This decree established de facto “automatic liability” of internet providers, who are obligated to monitor, control and report to Police authorities their customers – and are subject to stiff fines of they don”™t actively do it.

The original draft of this decree included, for the first time in Italian legislation, restrictions on encryption. We shall not know, until the decree is formally published, if they will be present in the final text. So we must withhold our comments on this point for the time being – though the sheer fact that such an option was considered is an unhealthy symptom.

This type of legislation leads to something that looks like a “police state”, with the persecution of intentions, compulsory espionage, violations of private life, freedom of opinion and personal communication. And all of this isn”™t done to fight terrorists (who may gain considerable advantage from the resulting overburdening and dilution of anti-crime resources) but to satisfy the ego of one or another politician (who wants ?his own law against the internet?) and the powerful lobbies and selfish interests of music, show business or software conglomerates, who don”™t care if legislation is inefficient and messy, but enjoy the idea of “terrorizing” people into obedience.