The Datagate Legal Implication under German Law

An interesting article from Axel Spies, a Washington-based ICT lawyer, assesses the impact of the US spying over the German Chanchelor, Angela Merkel.

Here is an excerpt from the “Conclusion” section:

Most Blog participants were more pessimistic about the legal remedies having any leverage against spying. To quote a key statement in the Blog: “What Germany can “legally” do against wiretapping is likely to be on a similar level as asking what Pakistan can do ” legally” against U.S. drone attacks on its territory. Politically, maybe some counteraction in the areas of punitive tariffs on imports from the U.S. or the termination of international treaties is conceivable. But this is less a question of being allowed, rather than being able to follow through with sanctions and thus hardly the subject of a legal discussion.” Müller further added this observation: “If there were an effective counter-espionage [in Germany], also against supposed “friends” [in the U.S.], then it would hardly be possible to spy on the head of a befriended government’s private and political communication.”

The Content Filtering Hysteria… again

According to the Italian online newspaper, the UN-appointed expert Frank La Rue expressed concerns about the effect of an upcoming copyright-related regulation announced by the Autorità per le comunicazioni (AGCOM an independent, State-appointed body superseding the broadcast and telco secondary regulation) on of free-speech. AGCOM is trying since longtime to enforce the French HADOPI model in Italy to “fight copyright infringements”, pushing to self-assign the power to delete copyright infringing contents available on the Internet. With a rather while understandable (from a political standpoint)  convoluted prose Mr. La Rue said what a lot of people is saying: copyright is not a “gold right” and has no title to be given  an absolute stand over free speech and the other fundamental rights. But this is only a third of the story.

Second third: since, in Italy, copyright infringements are a criminal offense, only a magistrate can order both a content’s filter or removal. By letting the AGCOM act as a parallel “prosecutor and  judge” would means to invade the attribution of the judiciary system and endanger the the “due process” principle.This is not allowed by the Constitution.

Third third: copyright doesn’t only belong to broadcast companies, music labels and movie producers. Every Internet user who publishes a photo, a movie, a song or a text has the right to not be stolen of its intellectual property. The AGCOM proposed regulation doesn’t address clearly this issue so only two options are possible: either the regulation only cares of the big companies and that would be non acceptable, or, on the contrary, will be open to protect everybody – i.e. will become useless, since there will likely be a tide of claim.

The end of the story is that, whatever the power belonging to AGCOM, it can’t invade the prerogative of the Court, notwithstanding the supporting opinion received by the AGCOM from some legal scholar maybe not much familiar with the intricacies of the Italian criminal procedural code.


Search Engines and the Hypocricy of Filtering

Another step toward the end of the Google’s “we’re just a neutral platform, ain’t nothing to do with those who publish illegal content” defense: according to The Register Google and Microsoft agreed to tweak its algorithms to prevent child-pornography-related searches.

This decision has two downfalls: the first is that in the upcoming trial it will be harder for a search-engine company to pledge innocent against the accusation of direct or contributory infringement since Google and Microsoft made deadly clear that it is actually possible to “handle” the way its engines work. The second is that by targeting the search engine result as a way to counter illegal content only stops the “casual” and final user, while the real criminal will stay free to spread their venom. In other word, focusing on content filter is just a PR stunt to lead Average Joe in believing that the Gov’s are doing fine, so no more “public scandal”  on mainstream media will bother the Powers-that-be.

The criminals thank you all for the gift.

Street Photography, Right to be Alone and the Challenge of the Reasonable Privacy Expectation

Question: what does  street-photography has in common with Google’s indictment in the Mosley suit?

Answer: both challenge the balance between reasonable privacy expectation and the right to be informed.

There is a widespread attitude acknowledged by some European courts – namely, Italy and France – that grants legal protection to this alleged “right to be forgotten”. This is a rather dangerous attitude because following this path leads to the deletion of the collective memory of a culture: if Catilina were alive today, he would have had merit in asking his conspiracy to be deleted by the chronicle. Agreed, not everybody is a Catilina – or a public person whatsoever – but there is a shared principle in Western legal systems that separates what is public and what ought to be private. As soon as something falls in the former, there is not – or  there shouldn’t be – a reason to delete the information of its existence.

To provide an example of the absurdity of the enforcement of this alleged “right to be forgotten” on the freedom of (online) press I can quote a fact I’ve witnessed in person, professionaly. An online magazine has been targeted by a threatening letter from a law firm, asking to remove from its server an article talking about an acquittal – yes, acquittal – of a Mr. Somebody. The basis of the claim is not a falsity or an exaggeration – that would have been illegal, indeed – but the simple fact that this Mr. Somebody “didn’t like the news to be online.” Only the future will tell whether this case will end in settling new censorship’s standards, or if the Justice – once and if the issue will be taken in Court – will decide in favour of the freedom.

As per the relevant case law, after a couple of lower court decision that enforced this “right to be forgotten”, a Supreme Court decision ruled that there is no such thing as “right to be forgotten” when freedom of press is involved and the news is correct. The concerned person, nevertheless, has the right to ask the online newspaper to update the original news in case of some further development of the story.

With a rather unusual sense of balancement – when dealing with the Internet – the Supreme Court issued a reasonable decision that should stop any further attempt of erasing the History.