Italian Public Prosecutor Says File-Sharing Site Is 'Receiving Stolen Goods'

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.

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Comments on “Italian Public Prosecutor Says File-Sharing Site Is 'Receiving Stolen Goods'”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

So if those files count as ‘stolen property’ I assume the prosecutors are able to show the empty shelves/computer folders that used to contain the DVDs/CDs/Books/mp3s, and are now empty.

No? Those items/files are all still where they were before, even after having been copied and shared? Not exactly ‘stealing’ then is it.

Infringement, sure. Stealing? Not so much.

Nathan F (profile) says:

So.. does this mean that since these files are property, and are being seized for the duration of the investigation and trial, that the original owners of the copyright can’t make use of the original product? Again, I will bring up the fact that if they are going to insist on treating these things as a physical property I look forward to the day the government seizes said goods under eminent domain and releases it to the public.

out_of_the_blue says:

Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

“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.”

Or are we all doomed to be charged with theft? … OH, WAIT! I’ve got it! Just DON’T INFRINGE COPYRIGHT!

Problem solved. Next re-write.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

First off, you’re an idiot.


See, the problem with that is people infringe on copyright every day. Most unknowingly. The majority of which do so both unknowingly and innocently. Like reposting a picture they saw online or something like that.

So yeah, there really is NO way to avoid the risk. Also, what you fail to realize is that we now have a court INCORRECTLY conflating the act of making a digital copy with the actual act of theft, which actually involves physically depriving someone of something. The difference between making a copy and depriving someone is huge and should not be ignored just because one doesn’t approve of the former.

But as I said, you’re an idiot. Like I said before, stop posting your brand of stupidity. From now on, just save us all time and write, “TL;DCTR. You’re wrong.” TL;DCTR standing for “too long, didn’t care to read”, since that’s your usual modus operandi.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?

This. (Thanks for the add about “still be accused”.) Because it’s true, accusations of infringement actually happen on a regular basis, and the “evidence gathering” techniques are pretty much as shoddy as you can get without randomly just pointing a finger at someone and screaming “Pirate!” (Which sadly to say almost seems to be what is done.)

And also DOUBLE THIS regarding the mere accusation of infringement being tantamount to a conviction. We already have six strikes programs being discussed and considered for mass deployment, six strikes for which no proof is provided against you merely an accusation, which you are then FORCED to pay just to be given the CHANCE to defend yourself and say “nuh uh”. Or else, bye bye internet connection.

That’s a pretty scary/sad state of affairs. But people like Idiot up above would have you think that an accusation of infringement is the equivalent of actual theft and should be punished equally, if not more severely.

Aaron Wolf (profile) says:

Re: Gee, is there NO way to avoid this risk?


By your logic if they next say that copyright infringement is murder (you know, it threatens someone’s income which is what they need to survive, so that makes it life-threatening, so you’re killing them), and your reply: “well, if you don’t want to be charged with murder, just DON’T INFRINGE COPYRIGHT!”

Now, in case you don’t get it, I’m using something called reductio ad absurdem. I’m not saying you actually would think this. I’m saying that your argument is equally logical as this absurd example, and I sure hope you aren’t so insane that you think even this absurd example is reasonable. Cheers.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Par for the course.

And Italy home to the Joke Pope and Vatican.Site of one of the largest oldest Hate Groups in the World.

There are tons of great Italians and great people of Italian Descent.Lots of other great stuff in Italy.

Government is pretty Corrupted ! Then again there is not much of a difference here in Washington or in a bunch of other Nation’s Governments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Par for the course.

Yeah, that was exactly what I thought of too. Italy is unfortunately close to a developing nation when it comes to democracy. The 1990’s Clean Hand and the newer reports showing up to 9% of Italys GDP being mafia traffic makes for quite a dystopian governance. I know most italians hate it too, but almost all politicians in Italy are seen as corrupt. At the same time the courts are hated and seen as biased in many cases and the way Berlusconi has run cycles around them…

I think Italy is in huge beep. They cannot kill 9% of their GDP. That is far out in TBTF! Sure, they are doing ok in bringing down dept and they are doing ok economically, but just like France, they have severe fundamental problems in the economy and this desperate definition is just another brick in the wall.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Par for the course.

I have yet to hear a scientist claim to know something they do not, and I’ve worked with a LOT of scientists.

However, nearly every media report I’ve ever read about what scientists say have falsely reported scientists claiming things they never claimed at all.

The problem is not with the scientists, it’s with the media.

Disclaimer: Every group of people has it’s frauds and loonies, of course, and scientists are no different. This is, in part, why you go with group consensus rather than a single scientist’s findings. On the whole it’s impossible to find a more reliable source of facts than those form the scientific community.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Par for the course.

Ah yes, a single example of fraud that was caught by fellow scientists.

There are a number of such examples, and almost every single one of them were caught by the scientific community. The examples of fraud are a miniscule percentage of the whole, as well.

As I said, every group has bad apples. What gives credibility to the group is what happens when the bad apples are discovered. Scientists expose them and ignore their results from then on.

I literally cannot think of how the community could behave that would be more credible. As to house-cleaning, the house is extremely clean. Not spotless (nothing is perfect), but the house cleaning is constant and ongoing.

But in any case, your original comment wasn’t about fraud, it was about scientists claiming to know things that they don’t know. Scientists are extremely careful to avoid doing this, to a fault.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

What can he do?

This is one man – an investigating magistrate in Milan – making an assertion. Does this suddenly turn a digital file into a physical good? No. This shows a man of some small power exhibiting his profound ignorance of technology, and the consequences of that ignorance.

If the Milan public prosecutor really wants to try out this novel legal theory (and not just do it to a Russian for the theater of it) I’m sure there are digital thieves in Milan. Raid THEM, and try to take these ‘stolen goods’ in hand.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Thats the worst of it imho.. The way things are going we (we being everyone) seem to be ending up with basically the most controlling decisions and laws from anywhere eventually being pushed for and taking precendence everywhere.

We already can’t sing happy birthday to our kids, but it’s going to get way worse before it gets better..
On the flip side, if things get worse fast enough, people notice. The mafiaa needs to maintain the boiling frog effect, if they turn up the heat too much the people will wake up and jump out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Turn this back on the news sites.

The news sites want to protect what they put on the net so the ISPs should protect them from anyone stealing their news stories by blocking all access to the news sites. That way no one can steal any of their news and put it online somewhere else, but the downside being no one will be able to access the news site either.

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