FC: Italian journalist praises registration, taxes for web sites

Michael Brennen mbrennen a FNI.COM
Dom 29 Apr 2001 09:10:26 CEST

It seems that my original post was forwarded to other forums, which
I welcome.  I am responding to all the ones to which Declan sent
Dott. Dall'Omo's response.  My comments are interleaved below.

> *********
> Background:
> http://www.politechbot.com/p-01913.html
> http://www.politechbot.com/p-01911.html
> *********
> Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 16:04:10 +0200
> From: "sergio dallomo" <dallomo a dallomo.com>
> To: online-news a planetarynews.com, ralph.hoefelmeyer a wcom.com, declan a well.com
> Subject: Re: Politech- Italy reportedly requires news sites to
>    register, pay fees
> Hi all,
> Well, as a professional italian journalist (32 years in this
> job, so far), I dare to define this message (and possible
> thread) pure information terrorism and nasty disinformation.

The law speaks for itself, and its effects are clear (subject to
judicial review).  Given what is at stake, that people respond
strongly to it is to be expected.  The strength of response from
either side does not constitute, per se, either 'information
terrorism' or ''nasty disinformation'.

If the emperor is naked, it is not disinformation to say so.  The
one who first states it may be accused of such by the powers that
have a great deal to lose when the obvious becomes widely known.

> Everybody in Italy will be able -now and in the future- to use
> the Internet as ever.

In the context of your statements, I understand you to mean 'use' in
the sense of passively read information online, much as one reads
print media today.  Passively reading any medium is not the point of
the Italian law under discussion, nor is this the point of this

There are also those that desire to publish on the Internet their
own points of view, or current news that is focused on a particular
field of their own interest, pictures of their dog, etc.  That also
is a 'use' of the Internet, one that is now effectively barred to
most.  The qualification requirements and funds to make the
necessary registrations are effective barriers to entry by the
majority of Italians.

This is not a word game on 'use'.  At the heart of it is the
fundamental question of the role of a new medium, whether it will
continue to protect existing structures and concentrate power and
wealth in the hands of a few, or whether it will lead to innovation
than we can only imagine.

I am not naive or idealistic about the Internet.  It has introduced
capabilities that we have never before seen; it has also introduced
problems that challenge long established norms and cultures.
However, merely subjugating the new to the old is a serious mistake,
with long term consequences.

> My friend Manlio Cammarata of "interlex.it" is a sharp guy and
> must be read with the necessary precision, even if he is often
> bitter-speaking and pessimistic (many italian intellectuals are
> when they speak of their country).

He knows better than most of us the futility of trying to introduce
fundamental change into a bureaucratically hidebound society.

A key quote by Sig. Cammarata is below, found on the web page

"nella società dell'informazione non c'è più differenza tra chi dà e
chi riceve l'informazione e quindi non ha neppure senso la qualifica
di "giornalista", l'ordine professionale è un'assurdità...'

My translation:

"... in an information society there is no longer a difference
between those who publish and those who consume information; thus
the term 'journalist' no longer makes sense, and the professional
guild is an absurdity ..."

More to the point, he has understood the interactive potential of
electronic media that no prior medium has.  He understands it in a
way that directly threatens your professional career and the
privileges and respect you speak of below.

I don't see things quite as two dimensionally as Sig. Cammarata.
There will always be a place for professional journalism.  It takes
time and experience to do that work well, and I salute your
accomplishments.  What is under discussion is the ability of the
non-professional to express himself as a peer in the same medium.

> BUT, as ever in Italy, nobody can be a professional journalist
> unless he got a public title for. In "this" country -please or
> not- there are some very specific laws on public press. A
> professional journalist must pass an official and formal
> examination led by a national authority.

There is long history behind this, some of it rooted in the
difficult chaos of the postwar years.  Whatever the original
motives, it is a rare organization in which ideology is not sooner
or later subjugated to maintaining its own power -- always of course
with a heavy dose of heavily self-slanted ideological speech.  Some
of the worst examples in recent memory come from the Democratic and
Republican parties in the 2000 American presidential election.

> Besides this, everybody can publish whatsoever on papers.

A disinformative statement.  You said above that 'there are some
very specific laws on public press'.  You cannot have it both ways.

As of 5/4/2001 (April 4), electronic publishing and paper publishing
have the same regulations; thus, everybody can publish as freely on
paper as they can on the Internet.

> About the medium, any regular publication (journalistic or not)
> in Italy must be registered at a Public Court Registry, have an
> official director (not necessarily a professional), a
> professional staff only in the case of a true news paper, and
> so.
> In any way, an online news spread (of a journalistic kind) is
> journalism. A web site that tries to cheat a shortcut to publish
> an online newspaper (or news serials) must be registered as well
> as an analog edition.

The web is not a shortcut, nor are those using it cheating. It is a
medium in its own right, and it can stand as such without reference
to paper.

The rules of the game are changing; this latest law attempts to make
sure that they don't, or at least that those in power remain in
power.  Its effect is to essentially kill real innovation in Italian
publishing.  I'm not talking about established print media moving
online; I'm talking about deep structural changes in the way that
large scale information systems work.

> Rules must be equal for everyone.

An excellent concept on which to build.

> This was in the interest of the right of the citizens,

I'm quite sure that my response will offend you, but this is a prime
example of Orwellian doublespeak.

This law just removed the right of most citizens of Italy to publish
periodic material without being a part of the union.  In removing
rights from them you are protecting their rights?

Unless I have missed something, a new father that wants to publish a
monthly diary of the infancy of his new daughter for distant
relatives is in violation of this new law unless he registers with
the union.  Or is it only when he begins to publish on his web site
similar material about his cousin's new son, or perhaps for his

This is not a hypothetical instance; this is but one example of how
individuals are in fact using the Internet. Is such a site of a
journalistic nature?  Does the law apply in this case?  I've not
heard any discussion about why it does not apply to such a case.

Lest such an example seem ludicrous, non-enforcement in some select
cases of an overreaching law is not the same as a well crafted law
that draws specific limits on its territory.  Unless the law states
clearly its intent and limits, it is open to arbitrary
interpretation and enforcement as fits the needs of the government
at that moment.  And then the rules are never equal for everyone.

> the correct competition,

Taking a different point of view...

That is, until April 4, those that could publish via the Internet
had an unfair advantage of far lower media costs and ease of entry.
Rather than established media adapting and quickly responding more
competitively, it is now necessary to raise entry barriers to
balance the competitive scales.

> the quality of the news,

In general, quality will sort itself out; the mediocre will be
ignored, to the extent that people want to ignore it.  If people buy
drivel, it should be far more alarming that people purchase it than
that it is available.  The only way to put it out of business is to
change human nature (a decidedly different discussion... :).

> the credibility of the informations,

I am also very concerned about accountability and truthfulness.  So
is Sig. Cammarata.  With respect to the Italian journalists' union,
I'm sure that there are honorable standards upheld.

However, I would be very surprised if the general order of the day
is not to first protect one's own from within, to look out for each
other.  Provocation from within is not conducive to a long and
prosperous career.  If this is not the case, then yours is a very
unusual union.

Speaking from a different point of view, that you are part of a
deeply entrenched, very powerful union reduces your credibility to
me.  You are not free to express your own thoughts.  The higher you
are in the organization, the less credibility you have, as you would
not be in such position if you were truly independent.  Such is the
nature of all large human organizations.

> the reliability of sources, etc.

There are existing civil and criminal procedures to address untrue
and/or libelous statements.

> In Italy all journalists that bypass the VERY strict rules of
> the profession are commonly lead to a trial and punished. Very
> often banned from the profession.

And this is the real issue: who is in control?

This is precisely why some call what is happening censorship.  It
all depends on the nature of the rules themselves, their fairness
and openness, and how equitably they are enforced.

> As wherever else, we are not saints, got no intrinsic truth, are
> very corporative, got many privileges. And are not loved, often
> hated. But here, many of us got a good deal of public respect.

Again, we return to the issue of power.  If you have no intrinsic
truth, then what intrinsic right do you have to be in control of, or
the protector of, the information sources?

Where a free press is not strongly protected, it is subjugated,
whether subtly or openly, to the self-interests of the prevailing
powers.  That does not mean that there should be no standards or

Inevitably there are difficult questions of moral, ethical religious
and cultural values that must be weighed.  As one who has
intellectually and committedly accepted the Christian world view of
fallen man, and redemption in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, I do
believe there are standards to uphold, and high ones indeed,
especially in the use and abuse of others.  I also believe that we
must continue to work toward a system that permits the open
expression of ideas by all, down to the poorest among us.  The
Internet is an unprecedented means of accomplishing that goal.

Chaotic?  Quite possibly; so be it.  I do not hold any illusions
that this will result in univeral peace, eradicate world hunger, or
kill dog fleas.  However, without it, all we need is a history
review of the last few hundred years to see the results.

> Non journalist, for sure, can be upset. In Italy it works that
> way, and most important, it works.

Fortunately for you, you are on the side for which it works.

I understand that our cultural backgrounds are very diverse, and
that alone will generate many differences; professional and ethical
outlook with create even more.  The issues at hand are emotional,
they involve sensitive questions, and they do not have easy
resolution.  However, it is in the spirit of genuine dialog, and not
ad hominem insult, that I offer my response.

> Best.

Cordiali saluti,

   -- Michael Brennen

> ------------------------------------
> dott. Sergio M. Dall'Omo
> Professional Journalist - New Media & New Techs senior editor
> Professor of Digital Communication - DSIT - Architecture University - Venice
> Digital Communication & New Media Strategy Consultant
> Founder and Owner of the web show portal project "www.newmediabox.com"
> ------------------------------------
> dallomo a dallomo.com
> dallomo a nemediabox.com
> dallomo a newmediamaster.com
> sergio.dallomo a gazzettino.it
> dallomo a usa.net
> ------------------------------------
> *********
> See also a Lizardrant at:
> http://www.cluebot.com/article.pl?sid=01/04/12/1611229&mode=thread
> *********
> From: "Thomas Leavitt" <thomasleavitt a hotmail.com>
> To: declan a well.com
> Subject: Re: FC: More on Italy requiring news sites to register, pay fees
> Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 15:51:34 -0700
> Mime-Version: 1.0
> Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed
> Message-ID: <F75FprhMOgRGkQ6mByS0000498c a hotmail.com>
> Certainly one of the major results is to subject online publishing
> to the national journalists' union.  Translating a quote by Paulo
> Serventi Longhi, the head of the union, as reported by PI:
> >"Thus ends, at least in Italy, the absurd anarchy that permits
> >anyone to publish online without standards and without restrictions,
> >and guarantees to the consumer minimum standards of quality in all
> >information content, for the first time including electronic media."
> This is about the nuttiest thing I've ever heard of a government doing...
> it makes the censorhappy Australian government look like schleps in comparison.
> Words fail me...
> Regards,
> Thomas Leavitt
> *********
> From: "Bill Fason" <wfason a houston.rr.com>
> To: <declan a well.com>
> Subject: Re: More on Italy requiring news sites to register, pay fees
> Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 12:00:18 -0500
> Hash: SHA1
> Serventi Longhi, head of the national journalists' union, as reported
> by PI:
>  > "Thus ends, at least in Italy, the absurd anarchy that permits
>  > anyone to publish online without standards and without
>  > restrictions, and guarantees to the consumer minimum standards of
>  > quality in all information content, for the first time including
>  > electronic media."
> The "anarchy" of which Mr. Longhi complains sounds essentially like a
> re-statement of our First Amendment.   No wonder our ancestors fled
> Europe in cramped leaky boats like huddled rats.
> But then one looks around and sees such nefarious anti-free speech
> proposals gaining currency here in the States.
> In Medina, a suburb of Seattle, the city council passed an ordinance
> that required people to apply for a license from town officials and
> submit to a police background check in order to distribute printed
> information, discuss religious or political beliefs, or seek
> charitable contributions.
> http://www.aclu.org/news/2000/n102300b.html
> A person who puts up a website which includes opinions about
> political candidates without first registering with the Federal
> Elections Commission risks legal action.
> http://www.aclu.org/news/1999/n101399b.html
> FEC opinion at
> http://herndon3.sdrdc.com/ao/ao/980022.html
> More recently, the McCain-Feingold bill to "reform" campaign finance
> includes uncontitutional provisions, including limits on issue
> advocacy by nonpartisan groups.
> http://www.aclu.org/news/2001/n033001b.html
> Can you believe the nerve of some people that they would just put up
> a website and start posting their own opinions about God and the
> world without any fees, permits, registration, applications in
> triplicate, review process, licenses, mandatory union dues, etc.?
> Where could it lead?   "Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living
> together, mass hysteria" - that's where. <g>
> To the tyrant, freedom always looks like anarchy.
> Regards,
> Bill Fason
> Version: PGPfreeware 6.5.1 for non-commercial use <http://www.pgp.com>
> g9dAgtBhJ+G9RDau5rvi5ptg
> =+1zN
> ********
> Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 10:26:39 +0200
> From: Monique van Dusseldorp <monique a vandusseldorp.com>
> Organization: Van Dusseldorp & Partners
> To: declan a well.com
> Subject: italy - engl lang report
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
> X-UIDL: 2457cd6bddcae85461678ff1557cc8f8
> ----------------------------------------------
> Only professional journalists allowed in Italy
> ----------------------------------------------
> The Italian government has passed a new law stating that ''the
> publishers of periodical news on the Web who are not 'professional'
> journalists (or write on behalf of them) could be fined up to E282 and
> arrested for up to two years, and accused of 'clandestine press' crime."
> In Italy a professional journalist is one who has passed the exam of the
> National Order of Journalists.
> Web journalist Alessandro Ludovico says the ''same old rules'' for the
> conventional press are now being applied to the Web under pressure from
> big publishers' lobbies.
> ''Today lots of Italian independent Web-zine publishers, frightened by
> the announcement, announced to stop the activity,'' said Ludovico,
> adding: ''In the Italian Constitution is clearly written: 'Everyone has
> the right to freely express his thoughts with spoken words, press and
> any other medium'''.
> Source: http://www.mediachannel.org/news/today/index.html - Media
> Channel / Apoge Online
> regards
> Monique
> ********
> From: "Theodore Baar" <tedbaar a email.msn.com>
> To: <declan a well.com>
> Subject: I confess, actively
> Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 12:49:10 -0400
> "It is not sufficient to have a server physically outside of Italy.
> The new law applies to information that is sent to the server
> originating from Italy or to information that is transmitted into
> Italy. "
> I think it is a moral obligation for us to carry at least one offensive
> Italian story on our sites. Prefeferably, this story should be
> unsubstantiated and salacious reporting of the odd sexual practices of the
> responsible ministry officials.
> These stories can be carried on US servers as satire (protected under US
> law). This will make every server involved "clandestine press" and Italian
> eurocrats can then sue in a US court to require us to belong to the Italian
> Journalist's union and stick tax stamps on our servers.
> Of course some groups could get very subtle. A complimentary article, from a
> San Francisco server, complimenting the gay government ministers in Rome
> would be a big hit. They could sue in San Francisco, said suit beginning
> with proving that gay has negative connotations. Good luck.
> I think this could probide endless entertainment for everyone involved.
> Mit freundlichen Gruessen
> Meilleures salutations
> Best regards
>                 Ted Baar
> --------------------------------------------
>              Theodore Baar
>              Omegacom, Inc.
>     tedbar a technoartisan.net  617-783-5227
>   Fax:617-249-0909 http://www.technoartisan.net
> -------------------------------------------
> ***********
> Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 18:07:39 +0100
> From: Charlie Stross <charlie a antipope.org>
> To: Declan McCullagh <declan a well.com>
> Subject: Re: FC: More on Italy requiring news sites to register, pay fees
> On Thu, Apr 12, 2001 at 11:31:48AM -0500, you wrote:
>  > From: Michael Brennen <mbrennen a fni.com>
>  > To: Declan McCullagh <declan a well.com>
>  > Subject: Re: FC: Italy reportedly requires news sites to register, pay  fees
> Before you worry, remember that this is Italy we're talking about. Italy,
> the country where tax evasion is a national sport and anarchism used to be
> a major political movement. If this was Germany, or the UK, or the USA,
> or some other country where people believe in following rules, it might
> be worrying. But Italy? I predict the sudden appearance of lots of video
> clips of journalists mooning at the camera on news sites, specifically
> to obtain the exemption. And lots of sites ignoring the law altogether.
> The recent EC directive on copyright, now *that* is serious ...
> -- Charlie
> [Re: European copyright directive, see:
> http://eurorights.org/eudmca/ and
> http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/en/intprop/intprop/news/copyright.htm
> --DBM]
> ************
> Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 19:31:49 -0400
> From: WWWhatsup <joly a dti.net>
> Organization: Pin Pub Proj
> To: Declan McCullagh <declan a well.com>
> Subject: [Fwd: FC: Italy reportedly requires news sites to register, pay  fees]
> Content-Type: multipart/digest;
>   boundary="------------0B7B0E9C64F2B15412521346"
> X-UIDL: 211dcb5b7e692c645393a3b86ea24d5a
> I posted your Italy piece to he ISTF list, were
> it garnered some responses (attached)

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