Italian Antitrust to storm on Google News?

Yesterday  the Italian headline news announced that the Italian Antitrust, following  claims by FIEG (Federazione Italiana Editori e Giornali – Italian Federation of Publishers and Journals), opened an investigation against Google, “charged” with discriminating against those publishers who had denied the availability of their content in Google’s News platform.

As I’ve pointed out in an interview by ANSA, this claim seems to stand on very weak legs.

As first, people use Google simply because it works. As soon as a (not necessarily new) search engine will prove to be more efficient, people quickly discharge Google.

Secondly: Google is not, by far, the only search engine to provide news search. People are not affected by a “locked-in syndrome” like in the operating system field: in other words, nobody has put a gun on the users’ temples to use Google.

Thirdly: the Internet economy is based on a quid pro quo, and the search engine sector doesn’t behave any differently. Publishers have contents, Google the technologies to make these contents available. If they join forces, publishers get traffic (i.e.: advertising), Google its part of the cake. If they don’t, they loose traffic and advertising revenues. That’s the Internet, honey!

Fourthly, let’s admit – for the sake of the discussion – that Google actually does what it is charged with. So what? As soon as the law is abided, Google is a private company, and the only people who can complain about its business strategies are the shareholders. I don’t see any reason whatsoever to force Google to look for specific content.

A final note: this situation is a typical demonstration of how “innovation” is “awarded” in Italy by the content industry. Instead of trying to unleash the power of new tools, the reaction of the traditional powers is to break it. It happened with software, it happened with music and video, and now with the Internet.

The Pirate Bay war. Does something changes for ISP’s liability?

The new episode of the Pirate Bay war leads to think that something is changing in judges’ mind in re: ISP liability. In the recent Swedish preliminary order neither is the final user the final target of a legal action, nor the ISP. The focus is on the sole and only possible defendant: the one who actually shares illicit contents (apart from the merit of the specific TPB case.) The ISP who provided the housing service for TPB torrent search engine has been ordered to “disconnect” the machine from the network and not, as in the previous episodes, to hijack users’ attempts to reach The Pirate Bay.

It is important to remark that in this trial the ISP is not involved as (contributory) defendant, but only as subject whose cooperation is – de facto – necessary to obtain the compliance to a court order. Thus, we face a situation where:

  • rights of innocent end users are not endangered by the activity of the copyright majors,
  • ISP’s role is not portrayed as those of an accomplish, supporter, or contributory violator,
  • the target of the legal action is focused on the (alleged) culprit.

Again, I don’t want to enter in the legal quarrel about TPB responsibility. What I want to stress is that – should the Swedish approach be confirmed – a step toward and actual respect of legal principles set by dir. 31/00/CE is made.

Italy to ban on-line anonimyty?

A contribution for ALCEI.ORG
There is a disturbing, arising trend in Italy, of former showpersons now MPs of Berlusconi’s party to propose free speech and anonimity regulation “to protect minors” (but fact shows that they’re mostly concerned of copyright.)
Between January and March 2009 Luca Barbareschi (actor) and Gabriella Carlucci (anchor woman), proposed two draft laws whose declared intent was to enforce copyright protection by shutting down civil liberties.
To be clear:
Mr. Barbareschi’s Proposal is aimed at create a “single point of cultural control” by granting the Italian State backed royalty collecting agency, the role of exclusive gateway between artists and market. Furthermore, Mr. Barbareschi’s draft law contains so loose statements about ISPs liability that the Government is allowed to do
basically whatever he wants.
– More dangerous, if possible, is Mrs. Carlucci draft law that wants to ban anonymity from the Net, refusing even to consider intermediate forms such as “protected anonymity” (where the ISP act as trusted third party).
Mrs. Carlucci want to establish a committee under the Communication Authority with power of interpreting Internet-related law (in Italy, only magistrates and the Parliament is supposed to), receiving “confidential notice” of infringement, acting as Alternative Dispute Resolution provider, counseling magistrates about the enforcement of preemptive activities ruled under rule of evidence code, like searches and seizure, termporary jail rescrition etc.)
If approved, these (draft) laws will cause the concentration of power in goverrment’s hands, by weakening the possibility (or the right) to defend ourselves in Court.
Another step toward the ethical state?

Iphone unlock might be legal in Italy

Iphonesimfree announces the availability of a software able to unlock Apple’s Iphone so that it can be used with any GSM operator wherever in the world. The first question that comes – then – is a legal one: is this breaking any law?

Of course, in Italy there is still no case law directly related to Apple’s Iphone, but a precedent ruling of the Criminal Court of Bolzano dated Dec. 31, 2004, stated that as soon as you are a legitimate buyer of a Playstation, you have the right to hack it because it is a general principle of law that proprietor can do whatever he wants with a purchased good.

Then, it is possibile to conclude that if an Iphone is actually purchased (and not rented of leased by the mobile operator, that in this case would remains the sole “proprietor”), Iphone unlock should be perfectly legal, as the selling of Iphonesimfree software.

At least in Italy.

“Certified e-mail” mandatory by law?

Rumors say that mr. Bersani (DS) currenty Minister of economic growth, is pushing to make “certified e-mail” use mandatory for companies and professionals. Confirmation came when the Parliament rejected – de facto – the proposal, by making certified e-mail usage an option thanks to an amendment proposed by a leftist MP, Maurizio Acerbo (Rifondazione Comunista).

“Certified e-mail” (a borbonic and bureaucratic tech-crap) is a method to give “legal value” and “certain timestamp” to an e-mail message. There are plenty of ways to achieve this result with a minimum economic and technical effort, but Italy choose the opposite.

Should Mr. Bersani atteimpt be succesful, it would have been an EU forbidden State’s support to private companies since only a couple or so of big entities (namely Postecom and Infocamere) would have had substantial benefit from an artificially created market-niche.

Here is (Italian only) the Parliament session trascription addressing the issue.

Telecom Italia’s new Barons: an Italian Zaibatsu?

Once AT&T retired its offer, the future of Telecom Italia seems to rely upon Intesa Sanpaolo’s bid (probably the biggest italian bank). Should this scenario become true, the result would be a sort of Zaibatsu.

The interesting thing is that to avoid the monopoly, the Italian governement and the Ministry of communication, On. Gentiloni (Margherita) are creating an enormous conglomerate.

Will that helps promoting free market?

Telecom Italia: is gov’t “unbundling” the network a right choice?

Sometimes they strike back. Italian Prime Minister on. Romano Prodi and the Ministry of communication, on. Paolo Gentiloni are talking again about the idea of “unbundle” the telephone network propriety from the service provided through the lines. It seems that the chosen model would be the UK way: a public company “owns” the wires, while the operators (including Telecom Italia) will compete on the market services.

It might have been the former mr. Prodi’s governement mistake to sell Telecom Italia the telephone network, but nevertheless it doesn’t seem that fair – now – to take the network back, thus reducing ex lege the value of a company. This “pendulum-based” approach (swinging back and forth from private to public ownership) it is not a good signal for both the market and the foreign investor who will continue staring at Italy as an unreliable country to do business with (or in.)

Truth is that Italy is paying the almost total lack – in the last 15 years – of a telecommunications political strategy. Television market has been, is and will be politicians main concern, while lasting everything else back.

Pretending that a problem doesn’t exist is not an option, because – it is just matter of time – the bill always come at the end of the dinner.

TLC liberalisation in Italy. When the tail wages the dog

Sect. 1 para 3 of the Decree Law “Bersani” (named after the ministry who drafted the text) states that users must be free to shift from an ISP to another at their will, just paying anything but the “documented cost” suffered by the ISP (for instance, the remaining cost of the yearly-leased ADSL line). This provision has been celebrated as an effective way to protect consumers, no more forced to pay penalties for their own freedom of choise.

The gov’t seems unaware of a side effects of this decree: big telcos will likely retain from asking for these costs, while small and medium ISP’s – for obvious reasons – don’t. What is likely to happens, then, is that the latters will be cut-out from the user-mobility market, since nobody would subscribe a service, knowing that he have to pay for moving to another provider.

The final chapter of this tale is that – just matter of time – only the big operator will continue to stay on the market, while other players may rest in peace.