Copyright on Information. A Dangerous Path

In its “Re-use of Public Sector information” website section, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner writes verbatim

All of the information featured on our website is the copyright of the Data Protection Commission unless otherwise indicated. You may re-use the information on this website free of charge in any format.

At first sight this statement might looks innocuous, but actually it carries a blatant mistake that will turns into a dangerous trend: imposing copyright on information.

In the EU, Copyright – better, the Right of Author – grants legal protection to the way an idea is creatively put in writing or in whatever way can be perceived by a human beings. In other words, this Shakespear’s quote from Hamlet’s Act II, Scene II

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.

is protected by the Right of Auhtor because of the “how” (creative form) rather than of the “what” (raw information). 1

Therefore, the statement of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner is a wrong enforcement of the Right of Author prerogatives.

But why is it dangerous too?

The talk I did at the 2004 Licensing Executive Society of Britain and Ireland Annual Conference, lately edited in a paper published by Ciberspazio e Diritto (English version available here) explains what is at stake:

The impossibility of securing patents did not stop the attempts to establish some sort of “ownership” on the genetic information, and alternative ways have been sought. As far back as 1987, Walter Gilbert, one of the pioneers in bioinformatics research, declared to the Washington Post: “I don’t believe in the patentability of the genome. What we are actually interested in is securing copyrights on the sequences. This means that if someone wishes to read the code, they will have to pay us to get access. Our goal is to make the information available to everyone. Provided they pay a price.

Imposing “copyright” over information, then, is not only wrong because there is no creativity on raw data. Is dangerous because it is a way to deprive people of their right to knowledge (right to science) and to be informed (free speech)


  1. Of course Hamlet is in the public domain regime, but the moral Right of Author still stands

Twitter to “mark” abusive political messages. The Last Bastion of “Intermediary Liability” has fallen

According to the New York Times, Twitter is going to “mark” abusive political messages. This is a very good news, as ISPs can be finally immune to the OTT and Platform “we’re just neutral” lie.

After about 20 years, like the proverbial Chinaman on the river’s bank, I’ve finally witnessed the end of an unsustainable claim that affected for very longtime ISPs: the OTTs and Platforms’ position about their “neutrality” in relationship to the behaviour of their users.

This has always be – at very least – grossly misleading a statement that let lawmakers into regulating ISPs as if they where OTT, while they are not. Facebook decided to actively close fake politically oriented account, and now with Twitter self-acknowledgement of its power/duty to actively interfere with users’ activity, the difference between ISPs and OTT should be finally clear.

Unfortunately, I fear that the very same notion of “OTT” has lost its meaning, therefore the regulatory game should start again from the very beginning. Hopefully, now, without waiting another 20 years or so…

Google Docs Political Correctness and the “N” word

 I use to transcribe the lessons of my courses by having Google Docs listen at the recordings and transcribe it right into a text file.

While transcribing a lesson on the Italian terrorism, I made a reference to  (Toni Negri), the academic who has been accused of providing ideological support to the left wing revolutionary groups.

Well, to my surprise, when I checked the transcript, I noticed that the word “Negri” has been written “N***”.

At a first glance I thought that it was just a software error, but then I understood: “Negri” is the Italian for “Nigger”, a word that in the English language is never neither written nor pronounced, being referred to as “the “n” word”.

As Google failed to understand that “Negri” was a family name, it just fell back on the political correctness and edited in real time the “n word”.

This experience shows that Google voice recognition service is not neutral.

Forewarned, is forearmed…

The EU Copyright Directive Doesn’t Protect Authors while Endangering Fundamental Rights

After thunder comes rain, so the infamous copyright directive was finally approved by the European Parliament on 26 March 2019.

With the usual excuse of “protecting authors and culture”, this directive, in fact, only protects the interests of large publishing groups to the detriment of those of independent content creators, does not promote freedom of information and creates an alibi for platforms to censor users. Continue reading “The EU Copyright Directive Doesn’t Protect Authors while Endangering Fundamental Rights”

Weibo vs Leica Camera AG: Social Networks and the loss of control over corporate brands

An advertising video titled “The Hunt” and aimed at promoting the “Leica experience” raised controversy in China because of a frame showing a lens that mirrors the Tank Man picture portraying the activist that in Tien An Men Square blocked a PRC Tank just refusing to give way.

As a result for what has been perceived as an infringement of the chinese social networking platfrom Weibo terms and conditions, the word “Leica” (both in English and Chinese) is banned from the platform.

Furthermore, the partnership between Leica and HwaWei to establish a Chinese presence of the German camera manufacturer seems to having being jeopardized, at least for now. Continue reading “Weibo vs Leica Camera AG: Social Networks and the loss of control over corporate brands”