by Glyn Moody
Fri, Apr 19th 2013 12:21pm
Leading Italian Film Producer Calls For $16 Billion Lawsuit Against Italian State For Alleged Inaction Against Piracy
from the good-luck-with-that dept
Last year we wrote about EMI suing the Irish government for having the temerity not to pass a SOPA-Like censorship law. That truly extraordinary sense of entitlement seemed to be a one-off, but The Hollywood Reporter now brings us another (via @LifeinSicily):
Italian producer Aurelio De Laurentiis has proposed a €12.5 billion ($16 billion) class action lawsuit against the Italian state for lost revenue he says movie producers have sustained because the state has done too little to combat piracy.
The justification for that rather significant sum is the following:
"The problem of piracy is very important, and I say we should ask for €12.5 billion in order to obtain at least €2.5 billion [$3.2 billion], the amount we lose each year because of piracy," De Laurentiis said.
There was no explanation of where that €2.5 billion figure came from. According to estimates quoted in Techdirt's "The Sky is Rising 2", gross box office sales for the Italian film industry were €700 million in 2011, so it seems highly unlikely that it is "losing" €2.5 billion each year. It may be significant that De Laurentiis is part of a dynasty of famous Italian film producers who can be justifiably proud of helping to create some of the greatest masterpieces of 20th-century Italian cinema. Perhaps he is still hankering for those good old days when people flocked to see the latest productions from his father and uncle.
But that was then, this is now: the Internet is having a massively disruptive effect on the film industry, just as it is on many others. That doesn't give film producers any entitlement to handouts from the Italian state for sales they claim they might have made. And notice, too, that De Laurentiis is calling for compensation for allegedly lost sales, not lost profits, which might have been minimal.
It's sad that so many in the copyright world apply their creativity to thinking up reasons why they should be protected by governments from the massive changes underway throughout the world, rather than applying that creativity to coming up with new ways of making money. They could do worse than listen to Riccardo Tozzi, president of Italy's audiovisual association, who was the co-host with De Laurentiis of the film industry symposium where the latter made his call for legal action:
Tozzi suggested a different tact: making it easier for people to legally download films, for a fee. "We should balance the threat of illegal downloads with a legal supply of films," he said. "It can be too difficult to download films legally, so there's no good alternative" to piracy.
Sounds easier than suing the Italian government....
by Glyn Moody
Thu, Mar 28th 2013 12:05am
from the are-we-there-yet? dept
Although the European Union finally approved the continent-wide Unitary Patent in December 2012, after decades of discussions, the story is by no means at an end. Science describes the root of the problem:
The final agreement introduced a complex arrangement for the oversight of patent matters by the Court of Justice of the European Union. Instead of being enshrined in the main patent regulation, the court's role will be mentioned indirectly in the Unified Patent Court agreement. Axel Horns, a patent attorney at the KSNH law firm in Munich, says the solution is "awkward." But it satisfies both defenders of the Court of Justice's supreme authority, such as the European Parliament, and those who want to limit its role, including some businesses and the United Kingdom's conservative government.
A key bone of contention is therefore what exactly the role of Europe's highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will have here, with different EU countries wanting very different things. But it's even worse than that, because two nations, Spain and Italy, refused to sign up to the Unitary Patent at all, after their respective languages were not included alongside the other official ones -- English, French and German. This has led to a Unitary Patent that doesn't actually unify Europe, but instead introduces yet another complicated layer on top of existing structures. Spain is now taking advantage of that fact to challenge the whole structure at the ECJ, as this story on The IPKat blog explains:
By hiding the actual substance of the patent, its scope and its limitations, behind an -- admittedly clever -- system of legal referrals, the [Unitary Patent] regime has become even more complex. As a result, the ECJ is confronted with a patent which is in fact just an empty shell. This makes the Regulation [governing the Unitary Patent] either invalid for a lack of legal determination or it will force the Court to define the substance of the unitary patent out of the blue. It will however not prevent the Court from exercising its judicial review over the European patent system. The idea of keeping the ECJ out of the game by stripping down the Regulation was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
And if this lack of legal clarity is not enough to scupper the whole plan, Spain has two more lines of attack. Since it is not part of the Unitary Patent zone, Spain's companies are obviously at a disadvantage:
Article 7 of the Regulation entails an indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality which results from the fact that unitary patents applied for by Spanish enterprises will always be governed by a foreign law.
In other words, the awkward compromise agreed to finalize the Unitary Patent last year actually contradicts the fundamental impetus behind the European Union: to create a uniform set of laws that apply equally across the whole continent.
Probably for this reason the IP Kat blog suggests:
It is also not unlikely that Spain will put its finger on the Court's greatest treasure, the Internal Market. There will almost necessarily be a distortion of competition between the Member States where the unitary patent is available and those where it is not.
the chances of success [for Spain before the ECJ] do look promising. The mutation from an autonomous patent for the European market to the hitherto unknown schizophrenic creature of a "European patent with unitary effect" has left deep scars, and every one of them could be taken up before the Court.
One thing is for sure: if the brakes have indeed been slammed on for the Unitary Patent project, they are unlikely to come off for a good while unless something dramatic happens. The IPKat blog reminds us that proceedings at the ECJ take about 22 months on average, so it may well be several years before we have the court's judgment, and things can move forward.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 21st 2012 11:52am
from the about-time dept
Thankfully, however, the appeals court has overturned that ruling and said that the execs are not personally liable. Giovanni Maria Riccio, an Italian legal expert, agreed that "this is a landmark decision," especially concerning secondary liability. As he noted "it makes clear that monitoring obligations cannot be imposed on ISPs and that, in any case, these obligations are not connected with the financial benefit gained by intermediaries." As we had been arguing from the beginning, if Italian prosecutors won out in the long term, the potential incentives for foreign companies to make their services available in Italy would have been greatly diminished. Now, if Italian courts would only stop sending scientists to jail for failing to predict an earthquake...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 13th 2012 7:16am
from the secondary-liability-mess dept
Making matters even more ridiculous, three of the four execs were then found guilty and given "suspended" 6 month jail sentences (meaning they didn't actually have to go to jail). A reading of the ruling by an Italian legal expert noted that the judge appeared to confuse different parts of the law to come to that conclusion. Part of the issue was that because some users "complained" in the Google Video comments, prosecutors claim that Google should have known and taken down the video (because, they apparently think that people at Google read every single comment).
Google appealed, of course, and Italian prosecutors are still arguing that the execs belong in jail for reasons that still escape me. At best, all this is doing is telling tech execs to not do business in Italy, because the country apparently has completely wacky secondary liability laws that mean you might be criminally liable (i.e., face jailtime) if anyone uses your service to do something mean to another person. The easiest way to avoid that kind of liability: don't do business in Italy at all.
by Glyn Moody
Fri, Dec 7th 2012 9:33am
from the copying-is-not-theft dept
Sites that share unauthorized copies of various kinds of digital files are hardly news, and neither are attempts to shut them down. But a recent case in Italy breaks fresh ground here:
The Milan public prosecutor has ordered the seizure of assets of the Avaxhome "digital newsstand", a portal for "sharing" newspapers, books, comics and music DVDs. The claim of receiving stolen goods against the site was validated by the investigating magistrate in Milan after a complaint by Italian publishing group Mondadori in June. The website is based in Russia, and Italian ISPs have now blocked access to the site.
Since the site is based in Russia, seizing its assets might prove tricky. But what makes this decision important is the fact that the public prosecutor in Milan has gone beyond finding that the site infringes on copyright, and deemed it to be "receiving stolen goods" -- a far more serious charge.
As Fulvio Sarzana, the author of the blog post quoted above and lawyer for the Italian ISP association, explains (original in Italian):
"This seizure is a serious problem because for the first time in Italy and in the world putting copies of articles on the Web is considered to be receiving stolen property and not only infringement of copyright." According to the lawyer, "the risk is that from now on anyone whoever puts copies of articles on the Web will see their site closed and be on the receiving end of a charge that equates this case to that of a car thief."
Sarzana says that the Italian ISP association will appeal, so it's not certain that this dangerous equivalence will stand. But it's a worrying prospect that copyright infringement might be routinely equated to theft in this way, since the two are completely different for reasons that have been discussed many times here on Techdirt.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 22nd 2012 11:30am
Italian Scientists Convicted Of Manslaughter, Sentenced To 6 Years In Jail, Over Earthquake They Failed To Predict Properly
from the that-doesn't-seem-right dept
Because of that, they've now been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in jail. This is despite the fact that the report quite clearly said that "earthquakes were unpredictable, and that building codes in the area needed to be adjusted to provide better seismic safety."
The conviction is tremendously troubling -- and the scientific community is quite rightly up in arms about it. Even more bizarre is that the judge didn't seem to care too much about the concerns everyone was raising. From John Timer's report:
The prosecution had attracted widespread condemnation from the scientific community, with one petition on behalf of the seismologists attracting over 5,000 signatures. But, shockingly, the judge in the case took only a few hours to deliver the verdict, and handed down sentences that were two years longer than those requested by the prosecutor.It seems like a fairly extreme theory of negligence that would lead one to decide that a "too tame" seismology report was negligent and resulted in manslaughter. And, of course, the chilling effects of such a ruling will be tremendous. Who will be willing to provide such a report in the future? And, if anyone does, won't they now err on the side of "we're all going to die!!" even if the evidence doesn't support that? It's not surprising that people want to spread blame around when there are tragic deaths, but sometimes it goes way, way too far.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Sep 24th 2012 8:28am
Switzerland Questions Crazy Hollywood Claims About File Sharing... Ends Up On Congressional Watchlist
from the funny-how-that-works dept
That list doesn't come out for a bit, but there's another, similar list, put out by the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (yeah) that has added Switzerland to its "bad countries" list along with China, Russia and Ukraine. Italy also joined Switzerland as a "first-timer" on the list -- despite rulings that required ISPs to block access to various file sharing sites. The issue in Italy? I'd guess that a story we had earlier this year has something to do with it. After some political fighting, the government there basically decided to just stop regulating copyright issues online. There's also an upcoming fight about new copyright proposals coming in Italy, and this seems like a preemptive strike for some of Hollywood's favorite Congressional Reps and Senators to pressure Italy into approving bad laws that Hollywood likes.
Meanwhile, both Spain and Canada -- who passed legislation very much at the behest of American interests -- were removed from the evil part of the list and switched to "in transition." The message is not particularly subtle: do not, at any cost, question Hollywood's planned copyright laws, or the US government will shame you as a haven for pirates, no matter how bogus that claim really is. Hopefully governments in Switzerland and Italy resist such obvious lobbying on behalf of special interests and pay attention to reality in those markets.
from the why-bother dept
Although AGCOM has showed its ability to reconcile the various rights and interests involved in copyright, it will not go ahead with its copyright regulation. This is because Italian Government has not yet adopted the proviso needed to clarify the nature and extension of AGCOM's competence to this end. Therefore, until this happens, AGCOM will not feel obliged to adopt its "well-balanced" regulation.This, of course, does not mean that there is no online copyright in Italy. Just that it's not being regulated by AGCOM for the time being. Considering just how badly pretty much every attempt to regulate copyright has gone recently, perhaps this is a good thing.
from the zombie-apocalypse dept
As if Italians didn't have enough problems, it seems that their government is trying to sneak through a proposal supposedly designed to provide those who are libelled online with an automatic recourse, which activists thought they had managed to kill off five months ago. Here's the plan:
In order to protect people from online defamation, this law states that each webmaster of whatever website must rectify within 48 hours (even if you’re a private blogger who just left for the weekend!) any page on the website itself, if somebody just tells him or her (how?) that they consider themselves wronged by that page. No discussion or reply allowed, no judge needed, and the fine for not "rectifying" within 2 days is 12K Euros [about $15,000].
The newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano gives an example of just how absurd that might be in practice (original in Italian):
A site writes about an arrest; the person arrested in prison could perhaps get his lawyer to say that it is not true that he has been arrested, and the Web site would be obliged to print this correction (without comment), or face a big fine.
Although it would be nice to think that such an absurdity would be thrown out once again by the Italian politicians, that's by no means certain, not least because the ACTA technique is being employed here:
As it too often happens in Italy with similar small but surely unpopular norms, it is "hidden" as a sub-section of a wider law proposal on an unrelated issue, in this case wiretapping.
Let's hope Italian bloggers spread the word about this shabby trick -- while they still can.