kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

On VPNs, Filesharing & Illusions

Over the last while I’ve been checking out cryptoparties. As a forum for the self-education of users regarding online risks it has potential as a useful format, although it will need to avoid the temptation to drift into security-flavoured machismo. As it happens I think that those who could most benefit from it are users who are either inexperienced, mildly technophobic, or both. But in order to serve that constituency the delivery needs to be pitched at a specific, actionable level. More on that another time, perhaps. For now I want to make a couple of comments about a frequent topic which arises in that milieu, namely filesharing and anonymity, and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

VPNs can help protect the security of your communications with the network, and allow you to circumvent geo-blocking (where access to a resource is limited to those in a specific country). So far, so good. But there is a misconception circulating that use of a VPN provides a fail-safe cloak for filesharing, an error which is cultivated by the VPN companies themselves trumpeting claims that they keep ‘no logs’. This is obviously false. Otherwise every kiddie-porn trafficker, carder, scammer and spammer would be good to go. Companies operating retail VPN services have an obvious need to prevent such uses of their networks. Otherwise they would be blacklisted by those they purchase services from upstream. Secondly they will have to deal with police investigations and court orders consequent to criminal prosecutions.

The delivery of subscriber data on Lulzsec participants to police in the UK last year by Hidemyass is a case in point. I doubt any other service would have behaved much differently, unless they’re so shady that such stuff pales in comparison with what they and their other customers are up to – and you might think twice about transacting with such people. There may also be a services out there which are currently following another policy and who have not yet been brought into line, but that’s a matter of time: the court cases will come.

When No Logs Means… Just a Little Logging
When VPN providers say they keep no logs, they mean that they are not watching your traffic, but they will certainly know when you *log on* and *log off* their service, because such information is useful for them in managing their own network, supplying consistent quality of service and identifying abusive users so as to eject them. In many jurisdictions they are required to keep logs by law, as is the case under EU Data Retention and US Anti-Terrorism legislation. That said, there are wrinkles as to how long the logs must be retained, and this is an evolving legal question (the situation in Germany for example is in flux). This log data connecting a user with an internet protocol address is the information required by copyright enforcement agents who will have collected the other information necessary by observing your activity on whatever protocol you use – they just need to identify you.

What VPNs can change is the jurisdiction to which your virtual identity will be subjected if observed by a potential complainant. Copyright law is territorial, not as is sometimes wrongly put ‘international’. There are international treaties, and in the EU a process towards harmonisation, but court cases will be held in national courts and decided under national law. There are countries where copyright enforcement is still not regarded as a priority, or where the media companies have not installed an efficient processing infrastructure. This may be useful if you live in a place  with an enforcement apparatus industry. Even in Europe some jurisdictions may only require the handover of subscriber data if the complaint is criminal in nature, as has been the case in Spain, and thus will not stretch to common garden copyright infringement cases. But overall the situation of a VPN and an ISP are similar; they are both middlemen, the former is just more nimble in terms of setting its virtual location. In some cases ISPs are also willing to test the demands of complainants in courts because they have more resources, and interests, to do so.

With a little digging one discovers plenty of testimonies online by users who have had had their VPN service discontinued because their provider has received complaints under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in the US. In fact, if one bothers to actually read (!) the Terms of Service, P2P and torrenting of copyrighted material is often listed as grounds for disconnection. Nobody is going to take serious heat to protect your mass entertainment supply – it’s not exactly wikileaks territory.

Fool’s Gold
If you want to snarf the latest Hollywood blockbuster, there is no technical silver bullet to guarantee that will not get grief. It has always been the case that the best protection in such scenarios lies simply in the huge numbers of people doing it. The likelihood of getting caught is low, but some people will. Ultimately this will only end when the current copyright are repealed. Until then (!) the more obscure and bounded the place where you’re trading files, the less likely it is to come under the radar; the internet is a big place with plenty of poorly mapped territories – check it out!

What I find wretched is that VPNs are just the latest in a sequence of products shilled to P2P users. First it was companies giving out malware-infected p2p clients, and making millions. Then came the direct download sites, distorting filesharing into a form of  FTP with a client/server architecture, and hitting the till register as they sold premium accounts – more millions. Next it was the turn of those peddling all you can eat Usenet subscriptions. Now is the time of the VPN spivs, trading on people’s fears.

What all of these companies have in common is that they want to sell you something you can either have for free, or that can’t be bought. Total anonymity in combination with high performance is simply inherently contradictory. You won’t enjoy torrenting over Tor! Anonymity ‘for hire’ is good only as long as you are faced with adversaries without sufficient motivation or resources. To believe otherwise is to delude yourself. As expert cryptoanalyst Bruce Schneier wrote:

“If you think security can solve your problem, then you haven’t understood security, and you haven’t understood your problem.”

Word.

——

ps No comments marketing commercial services please.

October 4, 2012 Posted by | /, civil liberties, enforcement, p2p, technology | Leave a comment

ACTA Hits Turbulence (Berlin Edition)

Later I will take a more analytical look at the opposition to ACTA, but having attended the protest in Berlin on Saturday last it feels important to take note of what an unprecedented success it was. Similar dynamics are in play elswhere and understanding them is going to take some dowsing as well as reason, so a few observations on the mood appear pertinent.

The Long March of the Internetz

On Saturday I took part in the demonstration against the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Berlin, a Treaty which has not yet been either signed or ratified by Germany. In advance my guess was that the numbers would be modest, a couple of hundred maybe. I had noticed the demonstrations in Poland attract tens of thousands and turn tumultuous in the city of Kielce, but wrongly interpreted it as a Polish particularity, perhaps fueled by the thusfar successful campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act in the US together with the especially blatant flouting of any impression of democracy in Poland’s adhesion process.

In any case the size of the crowd amassed at Neptunbrunnen left me aghast, easily ten thousand. Without an aerial photograph it is difficult to convey the scale of the crowd but this video gives some idea. The video-still below is my own and shows about a quarter of the crowd.

What was striking about the composition of those present was the large proportion of teenagers and, interestingly, many young women; the Pirate Party, who have been ridiculed for their atrocious gender imbalance, will have glimpsed some potential for salvation… Other than a few knots of guys who looked like they could be in a German version of the “IT Crowd”, those braving temperatures of -8 degrees were an unexpectedly heterogeneous lot, defying the tendency of protests in Berlin to attract only the usual suspects.

Since the anti-SOPA blackout ACTA has garnered attention that must make its proponents very concerned, up until recently it seemed destined to roll through amidst the disinterested complacency which usually accompanies the ‘creative works’ of the bureaucracy. The raid on Megaupload, the rejection of an appeal application in the Pirate Bay case, and the ongoing legal racket demanding ‘compensation’ from German computer users accused of file-sharing, cumulatively provided ample grounds that any treaty touching on copyright was grounds for concern.

Anonymous helped bring the thunder to the online propaganda, and V masks to the party on the street, as ever an admixture between circus, mischief and ambivalent gravitas that is ‘their’ hallmark. In addition to denizens of online communities, the Chaos Computer Club and Occupy Berlin, the protest was supported by several political parties: Pirates, Greens and the Left (Die Linke), and even the youth wing of the SPD. Although the PP’s result in the last city elections was almost incredible, this is the first time there has been a mass mobilisation around the issue at its core. But those on the streets were by no means all PP supporters, and other Parties support for the protest suggests the reverberation of the vote is making an impact: the PP will not be left the copyright field to themselves.

En Marche
After speeches by a cabaret artist, a wikimedian, and some digital civil rights activists, it was time to hit the bricks. Somehow at the moment of departure two banners ended at the front, the first one, modest in size, stated: “Save Europe from ACTA” and was branded with the website of the clicktivists, Avaaz. Behind was a larger block with a more contestational message: “Property is Still Theft!” This was borne by a rather large group of left-libertarian teenagers (Out of Control?), and they remained at the head of the demonstration all afternoon chanting “Liberty, Liberty, Total anarchy!”, “We want… to copy… everything!” and “State, Nation, ACTA – Shit!” . post-nationalism, here we come?!

The route was selected to pass by the HQ of the pharma lobby and the national affiliate of the IFPI (music industry). Initial attempts to get to the latter were blocked by police and a gentle fracas ensued. Subsequently the second half of the crowd was allowed to reach the IFPI office, where a speech (by a member of the intriguingly named Hedonist International) lambasted the music majors for both encroaching on users’ online freedom and siphoning off the lion’s share of revenues for themselves, rather than the artists they purport to support.

Obviously overwhelmed by the numbers, neither organisers nor police were adequtely prepared; for the former this meant that the speeches were not heard from where I was positioned; for the latter it was a bigger problem as the crowd started to slip out of control, perodically charging ahead, gleefully, on the count of three, as if determined to get the forces of order out of breath.

Die Fahrt ins Blaue, or, Just for Lulz
At Hausvogteilplatz – official end-point of the procession- the advance section of the crowd found itself blocked from proceeding towards the Foreign Ministry. A large group decided not to linger, descending instead en masse into the subway station, pursued by harried riot police. Re-emerging five minutes later after some antics on the platform, they took off on an impromptu wildcat march, shutting down a major boulevard, and breaching the enclosures around an enormous building site to invent an unmapped route to the museum district before returning, panting, to Alexanderplatz. All, of course, accompanied by a continuous chants of “ACTA – Scheisse!”, and pursued by police. There was however no confrontation, instead it was like a game, the city as funpark, and a brisk wander attentuates the effect of icy temperatures.

Further speeches (in German) were held at Hausvogteilplatz, which might tempt a comparative assessment of the relative efficacy of sober pronouncements and instinctual creative chaos, but this doesn’t seem particularly germane as no contradiction materialised between the different styles. Stephan Urbach spoke of how the net was built on the sharing of data, its remixing, and further redistribution thereafter. A rave then broke out amongst a part of the crowd. Elsewhere in Germany the demonstrations ranged from massive in Munich and Hamburg to just ‘very big’ in others such as Frankfurt, Nuremburg, Cologne and numerous others. Similar gatherings took place all over the continent.

In Europe the last obstacle to the formal passage of the Treaty is the approval of the European Parliament, anticipated to climax in early summer. Current president of the EP is Martin Schulz, who has already started making disapproving noises about the treaty. If events of the last month are any guide, the outcome may not be as certain as was thought. And irrespective of the fate of ACTA itself, this campaign is going to make the introduction of further copyright enforcement measures a matter of heated public contention in the future.

February 13, 2012 Posted by | /, ACTA, berlin, civil liberties, copyright | 1 Comment

Ireland’s Post-SOPA Tsunami

I have made two corrections to this post in response to comments received after intial publication. They relate (a) to Micheal Martin’s comments in the Dail, a matter clarified in the accompanying footnote and (b) the fact that the Greens had already left the coalition government when allegations arose in February 2011 that new copyright enforcement measures were to be rushed through before the election. Happy to correct any further inaccuracies.

1. Is the Statutory Instrument and Irish SOPA?
The labelling of the copyright amendment as Ireland’s SOPA has been contested by some as inaccurate. There are differences, it is true. Most obviously SOPA is designed to target ‘foreign’ websites, whereas the Irish SI (Statutory Instrument) makes no distinction between foreign and domestic web sites.

Secondly the SI focuses on copyright questions whereas SOPA takes aim at a broader range of alleged ‘intellectual property’ infringements. Participants in the counterfeit medicine trade as well as suppliers of counterfeit materials to the military and federal agencies are made subject to increased punishments. In addition SOPA is more forensic, and paradoxically thus, transparent in the terms of the anticipated consequences: IP (internet protocol) blocking (probably jettisoned at this point), exclusion from search engine results, isolation from financing via advertising or payment systems.

But it is precisely as a result of the open-ended language of the Irish legislation that there is a justifiable fear that such means could be deployed at the discretion of an Irish judge. IRMA’s behaviour – from the negotiation of private enforcement agreements with Eircom to their current suit against the Irish state for the losses sustained as a result of unauthorised uses – indicates how ill-advised it is to make available such an unbounded instrument for their use – these people have just got a bad attitude.

Fianna Fail’s leader Micheal Martin said Sherlock was ‘perhaps not perfectly’ handling the ‘issue’[1], which might appear unduly mild unless one recalls the allegations published in Siliconrepublic last February. Therein it was rumoured that the then Fianna Fail/Green coalition minority government intended to rush through copyright enforcement orders via Statutory Instrument just as they were about to be booted out by the electorate (this claim was later rejected by then minister Mary Hanafin).[2]

Apart from the concerns about the substantive questions about legal consequences, there is a problem with method. When it takes a Freedom of Information request to discover that Enda Kenny held a private meeting last summer with the new head of the Motion Picture Association of America, former Democrat Senator Chris Dodd, then the suspicion that vested interests are intervening in a surreptitious manner to shape the law is fully justified. All the more so when it happens quietly in Castlebar [3].

A pattern emerges in the history of attempts to prevent users from sharing files, that of keeping the public at a safe distance from decision-making: private agreements between companies in the digital media market, closed-door audiences for lobbyists with political leaders, secondary legislation requiring no official vote so as to give form to the policy conclusions.

2. The Fight Against ‘SOPA Ireland’
StopSopaIreland went live on the evening of January 23rd, providing information on the amendment, a petition to register opposition, and appealing to users to contact local politicians. Within a week the petition had garnered 75,000 signatures, 50,000 of them identified as coming from Irish internet protocol addresses.

On the night of January 25th, a series of government websites were targeted and shut down by means of a distributed denial of service attack; twitter account AnonOpsSweden identified it as a response to the copyright proposals. In response to a question by independent TD Catherine Murphy, a fifteen minute exchange took place in the Dail on January 26th, and Sherlock later announced that a longer debate was scheduled for the 31st. As the campaign picked up steam a call circulated for a demonstration in Dublin on January 28th.

Anti-SOPA/ACTA Demonstration, January 28, 2012
Demonstration against SOPA/ACTA & the Copyright Amendment, Dublin, January 28, 2012.
Photo by Dara Robinson.

Another demonstration has now been called in Dublin for next saturday February 4th, a day which will see coordinated protests against ACTA worldwide.

In an echo of the SOPA campaign there is an interesting contrast between the mood in online and offline media, and the a perceivable shift in the sense of how influential they are respectively. Forums such as boards.ie, and online only news operations such as thejournal.ie and broadsheet.ie have been important platforms for criticism of the proposals, whereas an earlier generation’s not especially informed attitudes can still call the print press home.

3. Empty Disavowals
For the reasons explained in section 1, Sean Sherlock’s protestations that the amendment is nothing like SOPA are unconvincing. He and his department have issued a bizarre commentary to accompany their draft amendment, which nominally purports top demonstrate why it is not like SOPA. This statement opens with the patently untrue claim that

‘We all subscribe to the freedoms, the opportunities and the access to information that the Internet provides us with’

because online copyright enforcement by definition means a limitation on that freedom. And there could be a reasonable argument as to whether or not that is appropriate, just as there is, for example, in the area of child pornography.

So why dissimulate, why can he not just spit it out and say ‘we are going to limit the freedom to do what you want on the internet and place obstacles to the free exchange of data because we believe that copyright protection wins out’? The answer of course is that the politicians are fearful of how that will make them appear in the public eye. They have watched the anti-SOPA tsunami break land in Washington DC and don’t like the look of what it has left in its wake.

Of course were they to be clear about this they would have to provide a justification for their reasoning. As pointed out by ALTO the government has not carried out any Regulatory Impact Assessment to assess the results of the proposed change. Therefore any economic basis for the change can only come from figures provided by one or other of the industries implicated (and the figures bandied about seem to emanate exclusively from the music industry), or else from some other source which has not been made public.

Rather than acknowledging what is obvious to even the most cursory examination of the copyright debate, that there is a fundamental disagreement as to the legitimacy and necessity for copyright as currently constituted, the commentary continues with a massive bluff:

“Ireland is very proud of the fact that we have a modern suite of intellectual property laws that by their very nature balance a range of competing interests and rights in a manner that is seen, right across the globe, as reasonable and proportionate.”

But the SOPA saga demonstrates that this is untrue. So does the long fight against the HADOPI three strikes law in France. As do the massive demonstrations against ACTA in Poland last week. And so does the continued popularity of filesharing as a phenomena despite a massive and sustained attack on its participants through legal action and propaganda presented as ‘education.’ And what about the legions of lawyers and economists opposed to measures strengthening and extending copyright, some of whom are against it altogether? Don’t pretend there is a consensus of ‘reasonable people’, that’s a fiction. The ease with which these initiatives previously passed had more to do with how their content and consequences were concealed from the public, and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of industrial era media companies, themselves amongst the greatest beneficiaries of the copyright ratchet, to aerate these debates fairly,

4. Dail Debate, January 31st
Undoubtedly the full debate will shortly be available online, but the crux of it was simple enough. All of the opposition parties (FF, SF and independents) opposed the SI, albeit for different reasons, arguing that it was inappropriate subject matter for executive fiat and merited primary legislation with a full debate, or that it should be delayed and a special committee set up to investigate.

As a practical matter independent TDs Stephen Donnelly and Catherine Murphy also submitted an alternative SI in consultation with TJ McIntyre and Simon McGarr. It contains safeguards for data protection and other fundamental rihts; limits availability of injunctions to cases where damages would be inadequate; shifts the legal and technical costs of the injunction from intermediary to applicant (copyright owner), and requires that lawful data transactions be unimpeded by any order of the court. In addition the SI would be applicable time period for the instrument to two years, during which time they would expect there to be a debate over, and drafting of, primary legislation.

Objections ranged from the impact it would have on foreign direct investment, the costs which would be imposed on websites willing to contest injunctions, that it was an error to target intermediaries rather than ‘perpetrators’ of copyright infringements, and more general concerns about the impact on individual rights and freedoms. Interestingly all speakers referred to the huge amount of email they had been receiving on the subject from concerned individuals.

Sherlock was not having any of it. He parsed the alternative SI, insisting that these concerns were either unfounded or inherently integrated in European Court of Justice cases such as Sabam v Scarlet. These limits would as a constrain against any judgicial temptation to grant excessive injunctions, and require their decisions and remedies to abide by the principle of proportionality i.e. balancing the interests involved. This insistence on judicial discretion was perhaps the most outlandish aspect of his speech. Whilst asserting that the SI did not mark any change in government policy, he went on to say that given the unpredictable nature of future scenarios, they would prefer to deal with them on a case by case basis. What he means then is that there is a new policy: judges will invent the policy on the basis of how they ‘feel’ about the matter whenever the cases should arise. Justice Charlton himself outlined the danger in this approach in the very EMI/UPC decision which sparked all this.

As regards any future primary legislation, Sherlock expressed a preference for the affected parties ‘getting together’ and listeners got a good dollop of the stakeholder palaver. Of course parties like IRMA/EMI/MPAA won’t be quite as motivated, having got a measure in the bag and satisfied themselves they can get what they want.

And In Conclusion?
Light comedy, amidst general cluelessness, was injected when FG TD Jerry Buttimer spoke of the online activists as ‘keyboard warriors, some bordering on anarchism’. But only a moment later we were brought back to reality with a bang: asked whether he planned to sign the SI or consider alternatives, Sherlock announced that he’d dealt with all concerns, would not change the wording and would be signing it into effect. He did not say when exactly.

To be continued?

1 This section originally read: “Leader of the opposition, Micheal Martin grotesquely described Sean Sherlock’s handling of the process as ‘perfect'”. This report was contradicted in comments by Paul Sammon, (see below), based on the official record. Whether my mistake derived voices in my head or the result of poor audio is unclear. I can always hope an eventual review of the audio will vindicate me, but in the meantime gracious concession seems fitting ;-)

According to the official record Micheal Martin’s comment was:

“The Minister of State, Deputy Seán Sherlock, is handling the issue of on-line copyright, although perhaps not perfectly at this stage. So far the handling of it is giving rise, correctly or otherwise, to a damaging perception of how this country views Internet freedom.”

Back to post

2 The first version of this post was corrected after a reminder from commenter Paulie Doohan that in the Green Party had in fact left the government, leaving FF on their own by the end of January 2011. Green TD Eamonn Ryan (formerly Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources), blew the whistle on attempts to sneak copyright enforcement measures through the back door. Back to post

3 ‘Kenny met US online piracy campaigner’, Colin Coyle and Mark Tighe , The Sunday Times, 28th January 2012 (behind paywall). Back to post

January 31, 2012 Posted by | /, civil liberties, copyright, enforcement, ireland | 9 Comments

Submission on Changes to Irish Copyright Law

See also a later post here.

In Ireland an amendment to the copyright law which might otherwise have passed unnoticed has encountered unprecedented opposition in the tailwind of the massive campaign against SOPA in the United States. Stop SOPA Ireland collected 50,000 signatories from Irish IPs for their petition in just a few days, and on saturday there was a demonstration in Dublin against both it and ACTA (which the Irish ambassador signed in Tokyo last thursday).

The change in the law will enable Copyright owners to get injunctions against any intermediary whose facilities are being used to commit copyright violations. this is achieved using language so broad as to constitute a charter for copyright owners to undertake fishing expeditions to see how far they can go in bending network enablers to their will.

In addition the law is being changed not by means of primary legislation, but through a statutory instrument, which means that its adoption does not even require a vote in either parliament or seanad (senate). Under scrutiny from the public however Sean Sherlock has scheduled a debate on the matter tomorrow in the Dail (Irish Parliament).

Last summer, I submitted the objections below to the responsible Department. I received an acknowledgment email but the content was obviously disregarded as the latest draft of the amendment is basically unchanged. Similar objections were made by groups such as Digital Rights Ireland and trade associations such as ALTO.

****************

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed amendments to the
Copyright act 2000 by statutory instrument. As the same formulation is
adopted in the drafting of proposed subsections 5 (a) and (b) of section
40, and section 9 (a) and (b) of section 205, the comments refer to both
changes.

1. Due to the open-ended nature of the provisions, the way is cleared
for actions against both service providers and websites of all types
which due to their technical design may also find themselves dragged
into infringing activity. The correct means to address this is to
require the implementation of a notice and take-down procedure, as
envisaged by the legislation, but never put into effect by the Minister.

Given the history of overbroad claims of copyright infringement by
copyright holders, such a system should also include the possibility for
the alleged infringer to issue a counter-notice allowing them to defend
uses which they believe to be non-infringing. In such cases, the
targeted material should be made available online again if legal action
is not commenced within a brief period after the initial complaint.

2. The wording of subsection 40 (5) (a) and 205 (9)(a) is overly broad,
setting out no limiting conditions on circumstances where injunctions
may be imposed. It is to be noted that equivalent provisions (giving
effect to the requirement that injunctions be available) in UK
legislation require ‘actual knowledge’ of infringing activity on the
part of the service provider.

Such language is present in Statutory instrument 68 of 2003 by which the
minister implemented the relevant provisions of the Electronic Commerce
Directive. Whilst the amendment is proposed in the context of mere
conduit this is not specified in the proposed amendment, leading to a
concomitant blurring of the position with regard to the limitations on
liability for hosting and caching.

Continue reading

January 31, 2012 Posted by | /, civil liberties, copyright, ireland, law | Leave a comment

www.lucavolonte.eu Shut by Italian Police

After a false alert five days ago, http://www.lucavolonte.eu, the site set up by Les Liens Invisibles :: Image-guerrilla group, has now been shut down by the Italian Postal Police. Luca Volone, let it be recalled, is the MP who demanded the police close down the Operation Pedopriest game created by molleindustria.

July 9, 2007 Posted by | /, civil liberties, italy, satire | Leave a comment

NoBlogs.org back online: Counterattack Begins

As of this morning noblogs is back online. After communications from Italian officials the US service provider housing the blog platform had blocked access to the site. Following consultation with their legal advisers they came to the conclusion that the content was legal and normal service resumed.

Today also saw the launch of a new website, http://www.lucavolonte.eu, named in homage to the Christain Democrat MP who initiated all of this nonsense on June 26th, for more details see the entry below. The new site bears a striking resemblance to Volonte’s own web page but also contains the Operation Pedopriest game that he tried so hard to suppress. Play it online here.

Update: http://www.lucavolonte.eu is back online after having been down in recent hours.

You can see the BBC documentary which inspired the game, “Sex Crimes and the Vatican” online (in english with Italian subtitles). Unsurprisingly a lot of it is about Ireland. :(

July 4, 2007 Posted by | civil liberties, italy, satire | Leave a comment

Censorship of Anti-Clerical Game Shuts Down NoBlogs.org

Many close friends of mine in Italy take part in a collective technology project called autistici.org. Late last year they unveiled a new service to their users, a blogging platform called noblogs.org, which currently hosts several hundred users and is rapidly innovating. In recent days the site has been shut down in an attempt to suppress a computer game written in flash named Pretofilia, an anti-clerical piece of agit-prop focussed on the abuse of children by members of the clergy. Ironically, I last met with members of autistici just a few weeks ago as they continued to establish servers housed in other jurisdictions, a precaution now demonstrated to be very, very well-founded. The author of the game, molleindustria, has written many other political games, many of them focussed on labour casualization.

The furore exploded after an Italian MP, Luca Volonte, submitted an emergency parliamentary question on June 26th regarding both the ‘Operation Pedopriest’ game, and a performance, ‘Messiah Game’ (part of the Venice Biennial Art show). The former was accused of being pedophile pornography and he demanded it be shut down:

“The government should act urgently to close the site which allows the download of Operation pedoporiest, a flash game containing simulations of the rape of children by priests, unimpeded by parents who are intimidated and gripped by a mafia-like silence.”

The government took the bait and the security services were wheeled into action.

Molleindustria had already made clear the political intention behind the piece and explained where the inspiration emanated from:

“Inspired by the controversial BB documentary “Sex crimes and Vatican”, Operation Pedopriest is a strategy game which introduces you to the fascinating emergency management procedures constantly put into practice by the church. It is not recommended to minors and lay-people.”

Obviously this clumsy and ill-advised act of censorship will end up having the very opposite effect to that intended: molleindustria will receive huge amounts of publicity and the game will receive an international audience. Volonte is the parliamentary leader of the Christian Democrats which governed Italy for nearly fifty years until its collapse as part of the anti-corruption investigation known as Tangentopoli. His reasoning as to why the game should be suppressed is illuminating:

Law 38/2006 (dealing with exploitation of minors and paedophile pornography, trans. note) should be applied: even where virtual… the reproduction and showing of scnes that represent such abominable events are forbidden. Let no-one seek an alibi in the excuse of freedom of expression for so-called artists thereby offending human and religous sensitivieties. It is necessary that the government take such steps as to avoid that similar cases occur in the future, offensive to religious feeling, confessional religion in general and the catholic faith in particular.”

Right, so no concern as to the ‘abominable facts’ that the game in fact highlights or for the victims of institutionalised sexual abuse? Glad to see that’s sorted out then. Given the removal of the veil of secrecy over clerical abuses in Ireland and the US over the last fifteen years, and the complicity of the hierarchy in protecting the perpetrators, a lot of clicks will be arriving from those IP ranges. Crimen Sollicitationis anyone?

The game is already available from numerous mirror sites but also on rapidshare.

A review of the game is available here.

The following statement was released by autistici:

Last Night God called America

Molleindustria.it is a site publishing satirical flash games with provocative political content. Its last game, called “Pretofilia” (i.e. Priestophilia), is a denunciation of the widespread use of pedophilia as an excuse for censorship, and of the widespread abuse on children in the catholic church.

After its publishing, the site has been immediately subjected to the attention of the Italian Parliament and the Interior Ministry answered prompting the police to act against the site. Molleindustria decided then to remove the game, but the file had already been spread far and wide on the Internet.

Soon after the news of the censorship threat was made known on the website, the game was mirrored even more, eventually also on some blogs on our noblogs.org platform.

After all that had been said and done on this harmless satire, we would not dare to say we did not expect some threats to our servers, but we would not have imagined that a small swf file could wake up someone so up above us to block all of noblogs.org (including all the blogs used by hundreds of people for their daily communication).

And when we say so up above us, we mean it!

Last night God itself called the provider hosting noblogs.org and demanded the whole server to be shut down. In the heavens above there are no fax machines, so the Almighty has deemed its voice by phone to be authoritative enough.

Unfortunately God never minds the Unbelievers.

Apart from being nerds, we are also strongly skeptical by default and we tend not to believe what anyone tells us unless we can touch it and feel it with our own hands. So we do not trust God’s voice by phone to be authoritative enough and are asking for a concrete and official injunction to shut down the site. While we wait for the Almighty to have some of its representatives on Earth send a very material letter or order, we mean to reopen noblogs.org as soon as possible with all its content (and nothing less).

In the meantime, we would like to stress that in our opinion Pretofilia has nothing to do with pedopornography and that we deem it a very good satire against children abuses. It could at worst wake up some criticism on how much priest’s abuses are hidden and silenced, but lately satire on the matter has been far from random.

That is why we ask anyone caring for the freedom of speech and satire to mirror the game, knowing that it could imply a fair degree of legal issues and attacks by the Italian government, the Vatican, and their lot. We ask anyone to publish a link to these mirrors in the comments to our blog.

If the wrath of God Almighty comes down on us, do not fear: file will prevail on p2p networks!
mininova - slotorrent - ed2k link

July 4, 2007 Posted by | /, civil liberties, italy, satire | 1 Comment

Terroirist Activity @ Fiumicino Airport, Rome

November 6th, I completed my wine tasting course courtesy of Slow Food in Velletri near Rome. Our final session was pretty indulgent, dedicated to the matching of food and wine, a five course binge. The twenty hours of lessons had provided a basic structure with which to organize my own educational regime, which included a series of trips to different wine producing regions of the country to scrutinise their terroirs. One such expedition was to Turin for the Salone del Guston and the surrounding Langhe to check out the homes of two famous Italian wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. of course this was also a good opportunity to pick up a few bottles so as to extend my (ahem!) instruction, in Ireland for example. So I acquired a 2001 Barolo produced Cordero-Montezemolo. Yeah, I know this sounds like a hooray-henry anecdote, but there’s actually a civil liberties nut at its core, and it cracked in my hands the next day, when I arrived at the airport to head home for a few days.

Continue reading

December 17, 2006 Posted by | civil liberties, european regulations, wine | Leave a comment

   

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers