Proposed Italian Law Would Effectively Shut Down Most Blogs

Beppe Grillo — a writer who is new to me — warns of The Levi-Prodi law and the end of the Internet:

Ricardo Franco Levi, Prodi's right hand man, undersecretary to the President of the Council, has written the text to put a stopper in the mouth of the Internet. The draft law was approved by the Council of Ministers on 12 October. No Minister dissociated themselves from it. On gagging information, very quietly, these are all in agreement.

The Levi-Prodi law lays out that anyone with a blog or a website has to register it with the ROC, a register of the Communications Authority, produce certificates, pay a tax, even if they provide information without any intention to make money.

As Grillo writes, the law, were it to be passed by the Italian Parliament, would set up conditions so onerous that most bloggers would just shut down.

I have some doubts that such a rule would be consistent with either Italy's obligations to the EU or especially to the ECHR, but I don't know either body of law well enough to be sure.

Maybe Robert Waldmann knows more about the Italian politics behind this, and whether the bill has any realistic prospects of enactment?

Addendum: Not that Wikipedia is the most reliable source, but this entry for Beppe Grillo is certainly colorful.

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2 Responses to Proposed Italian Law Would Effectively Shut Down Most Blogs

  1. md 20/400 says:

    The New Yorker ran a profile about him recently. An interesting character.

  2. Beppe Grillo is Italy’s number one blogger and a very funny guy. I have noticed no innacuracies in the wikipedia entry, but what would I know.

    I just learned about the law from you.

    I have just skimmed the law. I am not a lawyer and I don’t capire molto bene l’italiano. I basically skipped the extensive description of subsidies for newspapers, the special pension system for journalists and all that. There is a lot on competition and preventing any publisher from having a “dominant position.”

    I think this is plenty to guarantee that the law will be blocked in Parliament, since the publisher with a dominant position (Berlusconi) will be able to block everything from the next election on for at least 5 years.

    Italian law on libel and slander is very far from US law. “Calumnia” (calumny) is a crime as are various forms of “vilipendia” (insulting). This doesn’t, in practice, have much effect on the public discussion (discorso) as the laws aren’t enforced. It is a crime for me to write “the Italian flag sucks”. I will boldly commit that crime. The Italian flag sucks. I am not trembling waiting for the police to knock down my door.

    One good point of the law is that the punishment for breaking most of it (other than lying about circulation which is a very serious crime) is a fraction of the blog’s revenue. That is nothing.

    I didn’t catch the part about how a member of the union of journalists has to agree to be responsible for the journalistic organ. I know there is such a law basically banning freedom of the press in Italy, and it is clear that this proposed law will extend the restriction to non-profit internet entities. However, I have no idea how such a law might be enforced.

    My guesses are that the law will never pass and would have no effect on most blogs if it did.

    Grillo has a high traffic blog with presumably significant revenues so he might be affected.

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