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Italy's Public Prosecutor 'Seizes' Giant Webmail Provider And Cloud Storage Provider, Because Copyright

from the such-is-the-internet dept

We've been highlighting how Italy's public prosecutor has suddenly decided that he gets to be the judge, jury and executioner of any websites he deems to be engaged in copyright infringement. Back in March he ordered dozens of websites to be censored based entirely on his say so. And now he's back with another big list, except this time it includes two very big names: Russian webmail/social networking giant mail.ru and Kim Dotcom's cloud storage provider Mega.nz. No matter what you might think of Kim Dotcom and Megaupload, Mega.nz was clearly set up to be quite different from Megaupload -- and the company is known for being quite responsive to takedown requests.

As for mail.ru, it's owned by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who (not surprisingly) is a pal of Vladimir Putin. The company put out a statement in which it says it was not informed about any of this and only found out once its users in Italy started complaining. The company is not happy about the situation. "[Eyemoon Pictures] made no attempt to resolve the situation pretrial.... No notification of illegal content or requirements to remove copies of [Eyemoon's] films has been addressed to Mail.Ru Group from law enforcement agencies and Italy."

Fulvio Sarzana, an Italian lawyer who follows these things (and first alerted us to the news) is claiming that these sites have been "seized" by the Italian government. In this context, Sarzana explained via email, the government technically is "seizing" the site, but since they have no actual ability to do so, they order ISPs to block access to them.

The decision came after an Italian film distributor complained that two movies -- that have not yet been released in Italy -- could be found on these sites. But, they could just as easily discover that someone had uploaded such films to YouTube or Dropbox or Amazon's S3 or Gmail. Would the public prosecutor order all of those sites completely blocked with no adversarial hearing whatsoever? If prosecutors in Italy truly believe that these entire sites should be "seized" or blocked in Italy, why not take them to court and hold a trial? Why jump immediately to a complete shutdown of sites used by millions for perfectly legitimate activity, just because someone was able to find two infringing files? The chilling effects in Italy from this kind of activity should be massive. It would appear to make it absolutely impossible to build any kind of internet company that allows any form of user generated content, because on a whim, the government might seize everything.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 4:33am

    'Due process', another phrase that apparently doesn't translate well

    No trial, no defense allowed, just 'I accuse you of being guilty, therefor you will be treated as such.'

    While bad enough on it's own, combine that with the (thankfully currently rare) idea that copyright infringement should be treated as a criminal matter, rather than civil, with punishments to match, and you've got a seriously disturbing problem, and all to 'protect' digital goods from being copied.

    I actually hope he does slip up and target Youtube and/or Gmail at some point, as I doubt anything but massive public backlash, and resulting political pressure, will be enough to reign in someone so clearly drunk with power and/or bought out.

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 5:45am

    But, they could just as easily discover that someone had uploaded such films to YouTube or Dropbox or Amazon's S3 or Gmail.

    Certainly happened. It's just that they are too mainstream and would generate too much backlash. We can't let the masses get too aware of our illegal tactics, no?

     

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  3.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 5:53am

    Re: 'Due process', another phrase that apparently doesn't translate well

    Due Process is a phrase that is not even in the vocabulary of copyright holders.

     

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  4.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 5:56am

    There need to be a few more high profile instances of this

    I sincerely hope there are a few more very high profile instances of this. Maybe with the websites themselves, or maybe the domain names. Or ISP / backbone service.

    Hopefully with big names like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube, etc.

    Then, I think, we will see some real and serious reform.

    The damage would be very real -- and that's the point. But the damage would be so great, and affect so many, and be so obvious, that there could no longer be any denial and all could see the bare naked truth that the copyright emperor has no rocket surgery.

     

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  5.  
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    Starke (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 5:59am

    I remember Mark Halprin, in his book Digital Barbarism, talking about how he thought that there were factions out there that wanted to see the destruction of copyright, as a whole... and of course, going on about how horrible that would be.

    But, it occurs to me, that if the legacy entertainment industry keeps pushing against the tech sector as hard as they are, they could very well create, and die, to the monster they've imagined.

     

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  6.  
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    SolkeshNaranek (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 6:00am

    Re: Re: 'Due process', another phrase that apparently doesn't translate well

    Due Process is a phrase that is not even in the vocabulary of copyright holders.

    au contraire

    Everything anyone does that may involve copyright, they do want a process to get paid or shut it down.

     

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  7.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 6:10am

    because Piracy!

    They are playing a game they can not win.
    It is impossible to stop people from sharing things they like.
    But there is money to be made in the attempt, so someone will always sell them a new way that will totally work this time.

    This is about getting headlines.

    They are turning people who don't participate in piracy angry with them. They overreach trying to keep this narrative alive, and who cares about the little people who did nothing wrong that have to suffer. Corporations need action now!

    The simple solution is and remains to make these things available at the price the market wants. The market doesn't care about all of the stupid rules the system created for windowing releases, & taking pennies at each and every turn that worked before there was a wire that let people share instantly.

    Some people will still take it for free, but if you ignore them and focus on making your offering better you will be better off... you might even lure some of those people who took it for free into paying for it.

    They ignore the people who pay them.
    They indiscriminately screw people who have nothing to do with it.
    They are totally focused on keeping control, even as it drives them out the market.

     

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  8.  
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    Mr. Oizo, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 6:24am

    Re: 'Due process', another phrase that apparently doesn't translate well

    I think it was correctly translated from American, where 'due process' means very much the same thing.

     

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  9.  
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    relghuar, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 6:37am

    chilling effects in Italy

    You mean completely UNLIKE in the US, where such a thing could never happen? ;-)

     

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  10.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 6:48am

    Re:

    You reminded me of a comment from another TD poster a few years back, and after a little digging, I managed to find it.

    'Irregardless, as someone who used to be a very anti-piracy/pro-copyright advocate I can attest that when you club me over the head, treat me poorly, and attempt to restrict my rights as well, in your efforts to combat this perceived wrong, you are eventually going to lose my active support.

    When you club me over the head, treat me poorly, and attempt to further violate my rights in your efforts to combat this perceived wrong, because I am now not actively supporting you, eventually I will actively oppose you.

    When you club me over the head, treat me poorly, and attempt to even further restrict my rights, in your attempt to combat this perceived wrong, because I am now actively opposing you, then I will eventually actively support those you are attempting to combat.

    Simply because THEY are not trying to club me over the head, treat me poorly, or trying to restrict my rights at every given opportunity.'


    -Loki

    https://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20120229/03324017910/who-cares-i f-piracy-is-wrong-if-stopping-it-is-impossible-innovating-provides-better-solutions.shtml#c895

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 6:49am

    Digital Prohibition.

    If this trend continues as it is, expect to see the Cut/Copy/Paste feature being stripped from future versions of operating systems.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 6:52am

    Re: There need to be a few more high profile instances of this

    It would be interesting to see all of the big name internet players all collaborate together and freely distribute pirated work as a method of protest.
    If the entire internet as a whole protests copyright... well, I don't know what would happen but it would be interesting to see.

     

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  13.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 7:05am

    Poor little europe

    Seems every time I turn around, the EU or some component thereof decides it needs to control the internet. Why do they think they can or should? I suspect a lot of people consider say, Facebook to be more important than their elected officials. If they push the wrong button, politicians may re-discover they're living in nominal democracies.

     

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  14.  
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    Starke (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re:

    Well, and we're already seeing this. What SOPA and the other heavy handed legislation has shown the tech sector is, they need to get serious about lobbying. Which was something they had stayed out of.

    The other major factor is probably going to be lobbying against patent trolls, which could easily create a tech coalition in lobbying.

    It's not at the personal level that Loki seemed to be talking about, but at an organizational level, where the legacy industries face a real risk of actually being destroyed, and not just in their bottom line takes an imaginary hit kind of way.

     

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  15.  
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    MonkeyFracasJr (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 7:26am

    Re: They ....

    I completely agree with your comments here. Your statements are concise and well presented. I would very much like for SOMEONE to present the counter to your arguments (whether that presenter believes that position or not.) I know that They seem to be incapable of making a rational counter argument, They keep trying to use "talking points" as an argument, and They seem to have the opinion that they should not need to defend themselves.

    SOMEONE PLEASE enlighten us!

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 7:55am

    investor-state dispute resolution

    Maybe, as much as I hate the whole concept, all the companies being targeted by this Italian prosecutor without the use of courts should sue Italy under the investor-state dispute resolution mechanism.

    If it was both 1) successful and 2) the last time it was ever used, I, for one, would be most pleased.

     

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  17.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re:

    That was a great comment and a great article. Only one thing struck me as odd...I didn't comment on it! I honestly cannot explain why. I was certainly far more vocal in 2012 than I am right now.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 8:29am

    ... an Italian film distributor complained that two movies -- that have not yet been released in Italy -- could be found...

    Oh, they were released in Italy all right, just not by said distributor :-)
    Silly to try and use geographical release windows nowadays I should think...

     

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  19.  
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    Quinn Wilde, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 9:38am

    YouChoob

    The only reason that YouTube is still a thing is that it reached critical mass before the content industries had gathered round to kill it.

    Size and market penetration are the only things that set any of the little players apart from the big players, and it is precisely the reason why overzealous IP protectionism is damaging innovation: because innovation always comes from the challengers before it comes from the incumbents.

    The big sites have a veneer of legitimacy ascribed to them simply by virtue of being household names. The little sites are always considered shifty and dangerous, and rightly so - they absolutely are dangerous to people who want to make money without competition arising.

    Where people make a mistake is thinking that this is a moral issue rather than an economic one, and thinking that big companies being challenged by agile little upstarts is a bad thing. It's a great thing. God bless that thing, for it is called progress.

     

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  20.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 9:51am

    Re: Re: There need to be a few more high profile instances of this

    The big name internet players should not have to engage in copyright infringement.

    It would be that one user, somewhere, is accused of copyright infringement, and the entire big-name site is taken down as a result. (It would be icing on the pie if the accusation turned out to be actual fair use, or something public domain.)

    Then I think we would see some REAL due process.

    The copyright bullies just need to treat everyone big and small alike. Then the injustice of their attempts to impose liability on everyone not directly involved would be exposed for what it is.

    They would have to go after actual copyright infringers. And prove it. (Not just an IP address.) It is the infringers who they should go after. But they would rather force other parties to police their IP for them.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 9:52am

    it's been done because it could be and because there is absilutely no service more important (as far as they, the courts and the governments are concerned) as the entertainment industries and no opportunity to question what has been said by one side, therefore no chance to put up a defense! i am waiting with bated breath for the day when entertainment stops, to see what absolute disaster overtakes the whole planet, for it is implied that we will not survive without music and movies or the ability to make the few stick-in-the-muds who control them, a whole lot of money!!

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 11:50am

    Re:

    And then you will see third party extensions add it back.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Over in the UK

    Meanwhile:

    "Households in the UK that persistently pirate music and movies online will receive letters warning them that their actions are illegal from next year.

    The warnings are part of a new scheme brokered between internet service providers (ISPs) and the industry bodies representing content copyright holders to educate the public about online piracy.

    From the beginning of 2015, up to four warnings will be sent annually to individuals suspected of online privacy, although if these warnings are ignored no further action will be taken."

    and

    "In addition to the letters, the government has also pledged to contribute £3.5 million to a new educational campaign promoting legal ways to download music and movies.

    Business secretary Vince Cable announced the scheme, saying: “It's a difficult industry to pin down and it's also difficult to protect. But unless you protect it then it's an industry that cannot function."

    Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the British Phonographic Institution (BPI) said that although the letter-writing scheme lacked any clout it was still an important part of the industry’s efforts to preserve the £71bn it contributes to the UK’s economy.

    "It's about persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection," he said, adding “Vcap is not about denying access to the internet. It's about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice.”"

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/uk-pirates-will-get-four-warning -letters-a-year-9618818.html

     

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  24.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Over in the UK

    Yeah, don't celebrate too soon, when the 'strikes' system in the US was being proposed, it's defenders always assured people that the data would never be used against people legally, and yet, not too long ago, you had a judge ordering ISP's to hand over the data to copyright trolls, and you don't have to be a seer to know what they're going to use it for.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 3:55pm

    Re: Re:

    What third party extension, the OS will be so locked down that only malware will be installable without the vendors permission.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2014 @ 4:13pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Then Linux distros will become the standard.

     

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  27.  
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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 4:47pm

    fascism never dies apparently it is like a cockroach, it keeps coming back in the form of endless wannabe dictators.

     

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  28.  
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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Over in the UK

    "do what we say or get thrown in prison"

     

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  29.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 21st, 2014 @ 5:03pm

    Re:

    It never dies because it's a part of human nature. There will always be people who want power, and in moderation, that's not always a bad thing, as it can give them motivation to do what they otherwise wouldn't have been able to. As well, sometimes the reason they want power can be a good thing, like fixing an injustice.

    Where it gets problematic is when they adopt an 'ends justify the means' way of thinking, and/or don't care how many people they screw over in their bid for power, or what measures they take to retain that power. When power is the goal, rather than the means, then you've got troubles.

     

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  30.  
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    Whatever (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:28am

    yeah well...

    I have to say that I have never seen anything from mail.ru that was any good, it was always scam, spam, or slam.

    This story really shows more than anything that local and country level laws are in a direct collision course with the internet, and so far the internet doesn't look good for the win.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 4:31am

    Actually they are doing a big favor to Google

    Italy's prosecutors will never ever seriously take on the giants of the web but they'll clearly take a swipe at minor competitors. That's the reason why YouTube and others large companies, who are protected by the US administration for geostrategic reasons, currently enjoy the fringe benefit of having foreign law enforcers kill their competition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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