Project Gutenberg and the Crusader of Copyright

In the name of the new crusade against the “pirates of copyright” the public prosecutor of Rome seizes gutenberg.org, the site of the cultural project that digitizes and puts online copyright-free books. But neither the court nor the Guardia di Finanza has noticed. Is it a justifiable mistake? by Andrea Monti – originally published in Italian by Infosec.News
Continue reading “Project Gutenberg and the Crusader of Copyright”

Platforms’ liability for news theft

by Andrea Monti (originally published in Italian by IlSole24Ore – May 1, 2020)

The criminal investigations against the unlawful distribution of newspapers, periodicals and books are interesting in several respects. Firstly, it is a step towards making those who commit a crime by hiding behind the screen of a smartphone, i.e. the user of a service, responsible for their course of action. Secondly, it focuses on “platforms”, i.e. those operators who “rely” on the access network to make profits and who therefore can immediately provide data to prosecutors and perform selective blocking. Thirdly, and as a consequence, it puts again on the table the issue of the actual (non) neutrality of platforms. EU Directive 31/00 is evident in this respect: operators who do not interfere in users’ behaviour must not perform pre-emptive monitoring. But those who, like platforms, are not “neutral” to those who use them should not be able to take advantage of this possibility, as has been happening for some time in Italy and Europe.

Hopefully, the European Union eventually decide to give platforms an autonomous legal status and liability. However, these criminal investigations create a legal precedent on another very technical but essential issue: the possibility of configuring a responsibility (whether under the criminal intent or other liability doctrines) for crime by design. The idea is simple: as in any human action, when somebody decides to do something, has to make sure that it does not cause damage and upholds the law. If somebody designs a platform (or a business model that exploits it) without mechanisms that prevent its illicit use, and the absence of these mechanisms is what makes my product/service successful, then he cannot deflect his liability.

In this specific case, therefore, it is necessary to understand the way Telegram works and assess, for example, if it is a provider of a press distribution service and then if the entire revenue generation model is based on service neutrality.

Finally, this case is the test-bed for that case law (Cass. penale, sez.II sent. 11959/20) that, after only twenty-five years from the first theoretical elaborations, finally recognizes the nature of “thing” to data and files. This jurisprudence opens the possibility to charge a defendant not only of copyright infringements but also of serious crimes such as money laundering or receiving stolen goods. In this case, it would be possible to claim more substantial charges for the perpetrators of the offences, and more dissuasive for those who have “nasty thoughts”.

COVID-19: Italian Contact Tracing App poses security concerns

Ordinance 10/2020 of the Extraordinary Commissioner for the implementation and coordination of measures to contain and combat the epidemiological emergency COVID-19 writes the final word in the chapter “Tracking yes, tracking no”. Italy wasted months idling on the decision to enforce a people’s tracking system. However, now the Government made up its mind and decided to us an “app” licensed free of charge by the developer. At the same time, however, the Commissioner’s Ordinance leaves untold some things related, in particular, to the security of the software, which, given the criticality of the moment, should have been a central element in the selection of the product.

Let’s start from strictly legal aspects: the company that developed the contact tracing software, as the Ordinance verbatim says,

solely out of a spirit of solidarity and, therefore, for the sole purpose of providing its contribution, both voluntary and personal, useful to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, has expressed its willingness to grant an open, free and perpetual licence to the Extraordinary Commissioner for the implementation and coordination of measures to contain and combat the COVID-19 epidemiological emergency and to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the source code and all the application components of the contact tracing system already developed, as well as, for the same reasons and always free of charge, has expressed its willingness to complete the IT developments that will be necessary to allow the national digital contact tracing system to start working. Continue reading “COVID-19: Italian Contact Tracing App poses security concerns”

Getty Images to move toward a royalty-free business model, dropping the current “rights-managed” licensing

The reason for the choice is obvious: why people should pay for something that is available for free (on either Unsplash or other online resources)?

The answer is: people won’t because “stock photos” are meant to be “burners”, a quick way to illustrate a presentation, a blog post or a column with no actual intrinsic value.

I just need a picture of a man in powersuit doing business. If the image is good enough, why should I pay for something “more”?

True, photography is now an ubiquitous activity and what previously was a niche job, now is practiced by almost everybody on Earth. But that’s not a bad thing, as it raises the stake for photographers compelling them to produce better and better images.

Getty Images business model’s change is a way to get photography and photographer back to their original place: only great photography deserve to be “respected” and “paid”.

The rest, is just for stock services…

Adobe’s About Face: useless feature or stroke of genius?

The news is not exactly fresh, but has been recently bounced again: Adobe’s Project About Face should make Photoshop able to detect human face editing and revert the image to its pristine condition.

As Adobe states on its website,

This new research is part of a broader effort across Adobe to better detect image, video, audio and document manipulations. Past Adobe research focused on image manipulation detection from splicing, cloning, and removal, whereas this effort focuses on the Face Aware Liquify feature in Photoshop because it’s popular for adjusting facial features, including making adjustments to facial expressions. The feature’s effects can be delicate which made it an intriguing test case for detecting both drastic and subtle alterations to faces.

The first reaction would be something along “who cares? There are plenty of tools to create my deep fakes, so… screw Adobe!” But that would be a rather dull conclusion, as by developing these technologies (assumed that they work properly) Adobe is creating a (big and wide) market niche. Continue reading “Adobe’s About Face: useless feature or stroke of genius?”