kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

+Kaos (of autodidacts and adepts of Primo Moroni)

Autistici/Inventati, together with Rise Up!, is the preeminent provider of network resources and infrastructure to social movements worldwide. An English translation of the Italian tech collective’s history has now been published. The account should get some oxygen at hacker events over the next while and fills an important gap in the literature around politics and technology.  The origin and development of the sharply political sensibility behind the collective is set out here in a rich combination of recent Italian history and participant self-narration.

“Condividere saperi, senza fondare poteri” 

‘Share knowledge, without installing power’

– Primo Moroni (1)

Mediterranean hacktivism is distinct from the ‘hacker spaces’ of the US and the engineering influenced hacker culture of northern Europe (think Chaos Computer Club), more confrontational and embedded in a broader political atmosphere. This is a world where computer science faculties have competition from autodidacts who stay up late in squatted industrial buildings, equipped with recycled hardware running free software, a net connection, and subversive intent. Their knowledge is different, as is the way they produce it: outside of institutions and political parties, somewhat and unevenly self-organised, and yes, chaotic.

Published by Agenzia X in Italian in 2012, +Kaos covers the decade after the collective’s birth, in the ferment of the summer of 2001, before the trauma of Genoa and the political upending of September 11th. But it also looks back to the genesis of radical computer networking in the 1980s & 1990s – a homage to the pioneers and their predecessors.. From April 2001 onwards this is a tale of the slow assembly of a global infrastructure, punctuated by periodic setbacks, occasionally technical but mostly legal, and more joyfully the sleepless annual ritual of the hackmeeting. Like the networks A/I supports these legal attacks were both global and local, and functioned as a catalyst for the development of innovative solutions and resilient attitudes. The English edition comes with a technical glossary and extensive footnotes to help non-Italians get a grip of the peninsula’s peculiarities.

The world it describes already appears somewhat distant, before the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, the Syrian Civil War and Trump. But history seemed to accelerate in 2001 as well – how to stand up to these phases is the question and the challenge. This is an account of one attempt to do so, a collective agency combining operation of technical systems with political analysis amidst conflict, crisis and opportunity.

(1) This phrase has served as the unofficial motto of A/I since its creation. Primo Moroni (1936-1998) was a key figure of the revolutionary and countercultural milieu in Milan for over forty years. An autodidact, writer, and professional dancer, he opened a bookshop, Calusca/City Lights, in 1971 which became a faucet for political and cultural heterodoxy, including the introduction of beat and hippie literature that would quickly have a significant impact in Italy. His book L’orda d’oro, co-authored with Nanni Ballestrini, remains the definitive account of the revolutionary movement in Italy in the ’60s and ’70s.

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May 31, 2017 Posted by | /, hackers, history, italy | Leave a comment

Il Badalone; Brunnelleschi and an Early Patent

Normal service on boring enforcement related matters will resume later today, in the meantilme a little history. The initial draft stated the Badalone patent was the world’s first, this turns out to be incorrect, in a variety of ways! On a purely formal level, the first patent was granted to Francisco Petri in 1416 for the fulling of wool and was awarded in Venice.
*****
Having been in Florence for the last months, I discovered that it was the site of what was apparently the world’s first patents: a boat design created in 1421 by the builder of the Duomo’s famous cuploa, Filippo Brunelleschi, and christened “Il Badalone”. We don’t have the detail of the design, but thee is an image by Taccola in his book De Ingenis.

Il Badalone from Taccola's De ingenis

Continue reading

March 9, 2011 Posted by | /, history, italy, patent | 3 Comments

Romani Decree: Agcom and IP Enforcement in Italy

In the second week of December a wikileaked US diplomatic cable from February 2010 revealed the US ambassador’s scepticism at the motivations behind the Romani Law (Decreto Romani), nominally the Italian implementation of EU Directive 2007/65 on Audiovisual Media Services.

The cable described at some length how the law’s provisions could be exploited to the benefit of the Berlusconi’s media empire. Amongst other matters, the decree promised greater action on copyright, an area in which the Italian government had hitherto been somewhat disinterested. In fact the design of the Romani Law was driven largely by the need to restrict the commercial activities of Sky, the only effective private sector competitor to Mediaset.

From this perspective the legislation is in historical continuity with its predecessor, the Gasparri law, whose purpose was to ensure an undisturbed transition of media power in the shift from the analogue to digital framework. Yesterday’s incumbents – Berlusconi and RAI – would also be tomorrow’s. The Gasparri law was ultimately the target of a complaint procedure by the European Commission begun in 2006.

Just a couple of days after the leak, on December 17th, the Italian communications authority, Agcom (Autorità per le garanzie nelle comunicazioni), under the powers assigned to it by the Romani Law, announced new measures to be used against sites hosting materials that infringe copyright.

What is Agcom?
Agcom was established by the Maccanico law in 1997 as an agency somewhat independent of the government; of its eight members four are selected by the Parliament and the other four by the Senate. The authority is charged with overseeing infrastructure and competition in the communications sector, and even-handedness in broadcasting. Currently it is under pressure from Minister Paolo Romani to punish a program, Anno Zero, presented by Berlusconi critic Michele Santoro, on the grounds of broadcasting “claims of a gratuitous character, derogatory and seriously damaging to the dignity and decorum of eminent political personalities” on several occasions in January, ie allegations against Berlusconi in relation to soliciting child prostitutes aka the Ruby case…

Marketing Enforcement Strategies
Subsequent to Agcom’s announcement of the new measures, the ‘anti-piracy’ organization FAPAV (Federazione Anti-Pirateria Audiovisiva) held an event in Rome in mid-January to present the Italian aspects of a study commissioned on the detrimental effect of copyright infringement on employment in Europe, produced by Tera Consultants under commission by BASCAP and the International Chamber of Commerce.

As usual improbably large figures were thrown around (billions of euros and 22,000 jobs lost!) with no reference made to the provision of the underlying ‘raw data’ by the IFPI (music industry lobby) and FIMI (their Italian satellite) and a marketing company, IPSOS. No discussion of methodology either, perhaps advisedly so, as the Social Sciences Research Council (who are conducting similar investigations) had publicly criticised it when the report was initially published in March 2010. Not that any of the journalists reporting the event seemed to care: as usual they reproduced faithfully what they were told [1].

FAPAV had invited Nicolas Saydoux, head of French trade group and antipiracy lobby ALPA, to entertain the audience with a fairytale: how a strategy combining 3 strikes legislation and an increased range of legal products on the market had succeeded in reducing piracy levels by 85% – in less than six months!

New Measures
Obviously FAPAV would like to see similar measures taken against users in Italy but for now they will have to make do with Agcom’S proposals, namely a system whereby copyright owners can complain to sites hosting their materials or linking to other sites which do, and request the material’s removal. Where no action is taken within 48 hours, the complaint is passed to Agcom, who, after examination of the offending material, will demand its removal. In the absence of compliance fines can be imposed.

To deal with sites based outside of Italy, it is proposed having checked that infringing content was available, Agcom could order providers to ban the IP or DNS so as to prevent access. Such an approach is already in use against foreign gambling sites, and notoriously also in place against the Pirate Bay – not that this has stopped many Italians from circumventing these controls on access to TPB.

What is really interesting about all this is that Agcom’s powers would not require any judicial order. There is no judge involved. Attentive readers will be struck by the similarity to the first version of Hadopi in France. Undoubtedly the positive feelings of FAPAV towards this scheme are driven by the same rationale that was behind Hadopi 1: accelerate the process of shutting down the alleged infringer by recourse to administrative rather than judicial mechanisms. Or to put it more simply, eliminate due process.

Transparency? Nah…
Amazingly for such a controversial system it is not being created by parliament, but rather through an administrative order on the part of Agcom, under the terms set out by the Romani decree. The proposed order was released in December and is subject to two months ‘public consultation’ prior to being enacted. A campaign has been started by an alliance of organizations including the consumer groups, lawyers, and business. In recent days they have launched a site to coordinate opposition to the measures.

Postscriptum
In a separate decision Agcom has also decided that sites with a turnover of more than 100,000 euros per year based on user-generated content will be subjected to the same legislative requirements as TV stations – restrictions on the provision of content to minors, obligations to individuals defamed etc – and are to be treated as having responsibility for the content on their sites.

Most heavily impacted by this is youtube. In 2008 Mediaset initiated a case against youtube/google, demanding 500 million euros in damages of 500 million euros for copyright infringement of Mediaset programs on their video platforms. This resulted in two decisions against Google, in December 2009 and February 2010, regarding liability for hosting parts of the Italian version of Big Brother (Grande Fratello), a franchise owned in Italy by R.T.I.

Agcom’s decision regarding liability for user-generated content may be of significance in determining the eventual outcome, but this will also hinge on clarification of the more general liability of intermediaries in Italian law, currently a source of great confusion.

(1) http://www.repubblica.it/spettacoli-e-cultura/2011/01/26/news/bel_paese_pirati-11661722/index.html Back to post 1

February 3, 2011 Posted by | /, communication, copyright, enforcement, european directives, Hadopi, italy, law | 3 Comments

Critical Wine, Veronelli and Polemic

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jeremy Parzen had linked to a couple of pieces here in relation to Critical Wine and La Terra Trema. I had a comprehensive trawl through his excellent blog a few weeks ago, after recently stumbling upon his translation of a piece written by Luigi Veronelli which makes clear the latter’s willingness, indeed enthusiasm for the use of oak barriques, at least in some circumstances. This is an important correction of the record in relation to Veronelli, who is often depicted as a fundamentalist opponent of interventionist wine-making techniques. As the subject is of interest to someone, and given the fact that there was a minor shit-storm regarding Critical Wine in the Italian wine blogscape not so long ago, I may as well add a few comments.

Veronelli, the Icon…

First off, it is important to understand that while neither a winemaker or oenologist himself, Luigi Veronelli, was one of the most influential individuals in the modern Italian wine industry. As a writer, he exhaustively documented the country’s wines, lost recipes and the culture and customs of rural life. Arguably he created the modern form of wine writing, and was widely regarded as a key ambassador for the industry. His passion allowed him to move easily between the distant galaxies of Tuscan aristocrats and small producers fighting for survival. Since 1986 Verona is home to a centre for research and training, il seminario permanente Luigi Veronelli, which continues its work today. In 1990 he set up a publishing house which prints books, a magazine and one of Italy’s most influential wine guides.

In addition to founding and nurturing of Critical Wine from 2002, Veronelli devoted much energy after 1999 to the promotion of the denominazione comunale di origine De.C.O. (in Italian), a proposal for local systems of certification as to the provenance of food ingredients (1). His vision was that such a system could offer both guarantees of healthiness and traceability to consumers, whilst opening new opportunities for small scale producers. Today more than 400 local administrations have adopted the De.C.O. system (2).

History

Critical Wine’s public debut took place in December 2003 in Leoncavallo, Milan, involving renowned producers and agronomists in a three day tasting and happening. This first event was attended by 160 winemakers with a further 150 on a waiting list due to space restrictions. Since Veronelli’s death in 2004, participation has contracted to around 60 producers. Some of the celebrity producers who brought a certain glamour to proceedings have also departed, such as Joska Gravner (the Friulian practitioner of biodynamics using terracotta amphora for his fermentation), Academia degli Racemi (instigators of the quality revolution in Apulia). Others, such as Bartolo Mascarello (icon of traditionalist Barolo) have died.

Critics

Given Italy’s intensely political and factional culture, it should come as little surprise that some commentators would have ‘issues’ with the involvement of spaces and social networks connected to the radical left in wine culture. Whilst Veronelli remained alive, however, such attacks were apparently scarce on the ground, or at least left no trace on the internet. Earlier this year however a couple decided to have a shot, careful however to prefix their assault with an appropriately pious nod to the venerable Veronelli, puzzling over the support of a great man for such a diabolical project (‘…forte dell’inspiegabile adesione di un grande come Gino…).

Criticism of CW is organised along two axes. The first alleges a contradiction between participating winemakers and political positions they are imputed to be representing. Essentially some commentators took umbrage (in Italian) that producers of top class wines, often commanding up to fifty euros in the shops would associate themselves with a network that represented itself as ‘critical‘ and held its fairs for the public in squatted social centres. Really this polemic says more about the stereotypes at work organising public discourse in Italy rather than anything of substance. According to this reasoning, leftists are supposed to steer clear of elitist stuff of quality, and stick to whatever is cheapest, rolled cigarettes and Tavernello…

Biodynamic wines are expensive to make, and Josko Gravner can sell as many bottles as he can produce at whatever price he wants. So what? Critical Wine’s reason for existing is not to promote cheap wine or beverages for an imaginary ‘mass’ ‘people’, but is rather intended to be a space where producers of quality wines, who work in a way respectful of the land, can meet with their drinkers, sell them bottles at a discounted price and talk about their wines to a public who cares.

Recently the practice of selling wine to the public at ‘cantina price’ has comeback under discussion due to the practical difficulties such a policy creates in terms of dealings with wine shops and distributors. Yet the wines of some producers purportedly following this approach can be found online at the same price as at the fair. Apart from being disingenuous, this generates considerable confusion for wholesale purchasers (3).

Political Polemic

The second set of criticisms (both in Italian) regard aspects of CW’s Manifesto, the twelve acts for a planetary sensibility (link to the Italian, see below for some translated extracts). This planetary sensibility is understood as a type of global consciousness allowing fruitful coexistence with the earth and rejection of practices harmful to its integrity. Paragraph two argues that the demented nature of modern life should be understood as not only deriving from the loss of meaning but also the dimming of the senses, and contends that sensory lucidity impacts directly on the ability to act meaningfully and sensibly (4). Whereas in this case the criticism appears to target the prosaic and generalist language of the manifesto, the real wrath is saved for the section dedicated to the necessity to oppose the spread of Genetically Modified (GM) crops, a programme spelled out in clear and uncompromising terms, advocating both legislative change and direct action against the products of the GM industry (5). Predictably, it is the scandalous suggestion that property destruction (crop destruction, product spoilage) should be undertaken to provoke the ire of conservative wine writers.

For Veronelli however, the law never delineated a border not to be crossed when the issue demanded it. In fact he was accustomed to suffering the consequences of his cultural and political commitments. On two separate occasions he was imprisoned: first, in 1957 for having translated and published “Historiettes, contes et fabliaux” by the Marquis De Sade, defined as an ‘obscene publication’ and publicly burnt in Varese. In the 1970s he was incarcerated again, this time for inciting small winemakers to rebellion against changes in the system for wine production introduced at the behest of industrial interests, and detained for six months. Specifically he was involved in the occupation of a train station at Santo Stefano Belbo as part of the protests. In addition Veronelli was a declared anarchist and sometime collaborator left-libertarian publications.

A Complex Mozaic

Today’s Italian wine landscape is quite fragmented, composed of groups united by technical style/sensibility and the need to acquire market visibility. The proliferation of parallel events during Europe’s biggest wine-fair Vinitaly is a document of this. Most recently there has been a parting of the ways in the Viniveri group led by Teobaldo Capellano, with the departure of Angiolino Maule who has now set up another platform, VinNatur. there’s also the Vini di Vignaioli network which holds an annual event in Parma and functions as a bridge with comparable French producers. Political discussion within Critical Wine is withering as well, and now some of the more motivated discussions amongst producers have shifted to the Associazione Agricoltori Critici, leaving CW to be used more as an interface with the public and those producers now inactive. Quite a kaleidoscope of groups thus, and that’s just the hazy world of wine-making influenced by organic and biodynamic practices…

Notes
(1) Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Dario De Bortoli provide an overview of the emergence of a movement for an alternative agriculture and food policy in their article For Another Agriculture, Mute Magazine, 2003.

(2) Veronelli’s first proposal of collaboration with young people involved in occupied social centres and anarchist groups dates from this period and concerned the De.C.O. and the revitalization of local cultures, see his Lettera ai Giovani Estremi, A, Rivista Anarchica, February 1999.

(3) Quite a number of producers do practice the prezzo sorgente. My biggest problem when encountering Azienda Agricola Aurora for example is how to transport their wines, the prices offer extraordinary value.

(4) A rough translation of this rather tricky text:

“The second act of planetary sensibility is a reflection on the madness of reality, understood no longer as the failure to reason of strange minds but rather as sensorial deprivation, as the difficulty or impossibility of experiencing our sensory sphere in a planetary sociality. Planetary sensibility is thus an act of resistance against the destruction of tastes and the annihilation of knowledge, but also against that sensorial deprivation which blunts our ability to hear, see, feel, taste and smell. Amongst the non-senses of contemporary humanity there isn’t just production of an infinite army of short-sightedness. Miopias of hearing, of the palate, of our sense of smell are just as, if not more, worrying than short-sightedness. The craziness of life is related not only to the loss of meaning in our actions but also the weakening of our sensory capacities. The meaning of action cannot be unaffected by the senses through which we act. Meaning goes missing as the senses are lost. Sensorial deprivation is the paradigmatic and crucial aspect of the loss of the sense of acts. Planetary sensibility is thus a reaffirmation of sensorial centrality and a simultaneous re-centreing of the meaning of action.”

(5) Once again the translation is approximate:

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the monsters of agriculture: apart from important questions regarding the consequences of genetic modification on both plants and mankind, which would be enough reason to fight them, GMOs concentrate the agricultural sector in the hands of the few, impoverish the earth, destroy the peasantry, and eliminate or homogenise taste. GMOs constitute the greatest threat to planetary sensibility today. Against them there is neither time to lose nor any chance of mediation. Research, experimentation, enabling legislation and the use of GMOs constitute a crime against the earth and humanity. Everything must be done to stop them. But where cultivation, even if only experimental, is allowed, it is necessary to destroy the GMOs by any means necessary. The most minimal aim of the planetary sensibility is to get rid of legislation in favour of GMOs, destroy GM crops, destroy GM products all along the production cycle, from research to retail. If you want to do something good, destroy GMOs. It’s enough just to go to the nearest supermarket and open their packaging, spoiling them, It’s enough to burn the fields where they are being grown. As to those who work in the research, production or sale of GM products, we ask that they demonstrate their planetary sensibility by leaving or openly sabotaging GM products and companies making them. To desert or to sabotage: there is no other choice. The war conducted by GMOs against humanity and the earth is the most unwise and foolish of wars; worse than any of those between mankind.

December 5, 2007 Posted by | /, critical wine, italy, material culture, wine | 8 Comments

Wandering the Wine Route at Leoncavallo…

Report to come. From tomorrow it’s back to intellectual property.

November 30, 2007 Posted by | /, critical wine, italy, material culture, photography, wine | Leave a comment

La Terra Trema: Critical Wine in Milan

One year later, I find myself once again in Via Wattenau. In that warehouse which has an important political resonance in Milan, Leoncavallo. Again, my presence is driven by Critical Wine, which this year has been organised by Folletto, a ‘small’ alternative space on the outskirts of Milan. Last year I made their acquaintance, as they had a stall at critical book and wine, and they impressed me with their rigor. No surprise then, that they have done a superb job in organizing this year’s event.

There are about fifty wine-makers present, a disproportionate number are from Piedmont, which makes sense when you understand that it is the region of high-quality, small-scale producers par excellence. Most of them, like their customers, are principally interested in red wines, but I’ve developed a fetish for whites, so I started with Timorasso. This is an ancient Piedmontese varietal, which was largely abandoned due to its temperamental nature, being too liable to rot and to bursting, according to the climate. Other grapes were available which were more reliable. Today, as part of the rediscovery of local heritage Timorasso is a source of excitement, even if it remains relatively rare, being produced in an area near Tortona over a total of just 50 hectares. Producers describe it as a white with the body of a red, and insist that it is a wine that can age for up to ten years. I tasted wines from Valli Unite and Euvio Ferreti, the former was more acidic,mineral and Mediterranean, and the latter more driven by floral and fruit components. Honestly these are young wines, and I’m curious to see what will become of them with the passage of time.

A highlight of the day was an excellent presentation by sommelier Andrea Bonini about Barolo. Honestly this level of contextualization and expertise was a novelty for me at Critical Wine, but I was really impressed. A detailed analysis of the elements of terroir was provided, encompassing geology, micro-climates, vineyard methodology, precipitation levels etc – basically it was deadly serious! During the lecture it occurred to me that the producers should be proud to have their wines presented in such a manner, and indeed both Cascina del Monastero (La Morra) and Vigneti Rocche (Castiglione Falletto) participated enthusiastically in the discussion , in addition to providing the samples :).

In addition I got to try two of my favourite whites from le Marche, a Pecorino from Aurora (one of heroes tout court), and a Verdichio di Castelli di Jesi Riserva (2005) from La Distesa. Aurora had bad news about the harvest (their production is down 40%). La Distesa explained how verdicchio can go in either of two directions, a more raw and mineral version a la Riesling from Alsace, or a softer rounder form comparable to Burgundy whites, hinging upon the use of a malolactic fermentation.

Otherwise I spent the evening drinking reds from Apulia, a deliberate drive on my part to correct an impression of primitivo and negoramaro formed by the industrial producers which dominate the market in these wines, whose products taste cooked. But if you can find a good producer then you’ll get far better value for money than in any of Italy’s famous regions. Morella was my first stop and their cru made from seventy five year old primitivo vines is great. In addition they offer a blend with malbec, the first time I’ve encountered this varietal in Italy, although the apparently it is common in that region. Next up was Mille Una from Lizzano. I preferred their primitivos to the negroamaros, particularly enjoying the Ori di Taranto 2003. All of these wines managed to maintain balance such that the strength of the alcohol was kept in the shade.

November 24, 2007 Posted by | critical wine, italy, material culture, wine | 4 Comments

Mettere i Mani Nel Pasto

Despite being perenially attracted to the more political sessions at technology get-togethers, I must admit that my favourite session this year was about something more fundamental: bread baking (hack the bread). Fresh out of bed yesterday, I joined the group led by Otted and Tibi, who talked to us about the politics of food and and the material process of making our own bread, which we duly did. Half the group used industrially produced yeast, the others a natural alternative, the pasta madre. Being in something of a rush, I went for the blue pill and the short cut…. Kneading of the dough took place to a montage music, arranged to help us inject this fundamental foodstuff with a range of emotions modulated by the style of the composition: serenity, relaxation, anger, ecstacy….

September 30, 2007 Posted by | /, italy, material culture, photography | Leave a comment

Codes is Written, The Future is Not…

So goes the legend of this year’s Italian Hackmeeting currently taking place in Pisa. Even before the official opening on thursday evening a large crowd of people had arrived at Social Center Rebeldia, right in the centre of the city and excellently self-managed; we knew it was going to be good….

A full schedule of seminars had been scheduled, with three sessions taking place concurrently. The majority were concerned with technical questions around practical security, distributed networks and anonymity. In addition however there was plenty of fare for those kore interested in the social and political aspects of network culture. A couple of discussions demand further comment. Armin Medosch, who truth to tell is an old accomplice, gav a very provocative tralk on the history of technology and how it relates to possibilities to change social relatiions. This was a whistlestop tour which began with the french revolution, sidestepped to haiti, tarversed the invention of the telegraph and the birth of photographt to finish up with the birth of distributed network topographies. He posited a tentative claim that the decentralised nature of these architectures reflected the ideas behind grassroots networking which were so conspicuous in the Bay area during the 1970s. The attitudes of Berkely hackers (who included the TCP stack in their BSD distribution) were contrasted with those of their counterparts in MIT, who embarassingly, had to build a steel door to keep protesters against the Vitnam war at bay. In addition he evoked the story of the Community Memory project in Berkeley, which was put together by leftist hackers such as Lee Feldstein. This lore is documented in Steven Levy’s fundamental work “Hackers“, and Armin is right to say that now is the moment to seek out and verify or disprove this possibility, these people still being alive. You can read a longer version of his talk here.

Another interesting discussion was tabled by Andy Muller from the Chaos Computer Club. His talk focussed on the increasing encroachment of data body by law enforcement, and the use of tools such as legal interception (tapping) and data retention. It must be said that this was a pretty dystopian talk, but what was most stimulating was his reflection on the current politial economy of lawmaking in the technological sphere. He was explicit that the diplomatic work undertaken in the last ten years has produced almost no dividends, that what privacy protections had been put in place were rendered dead letters post 9-11, and that a new approch was required. His intriguing proposal was for a renewed focus on building autonomus structures capable of delivering the privacy and data freedoms that we require, outside and beyond the nipple of the state. Coming from someone whose experience spans most of the moments of technological conflicts of the last fifteen years, who had previosuly believed that a more formal, presentable, approach would work best, his reflections provide important food for thought.

Lastly, I spent a lot of time talking with Emmanuel Goldstein of 2600 fame. The conversation was wide-ranging (and we discovered a shared passion for the TV series “The Wire“) but alas, I had to leave Pisa before his talk whichreports tell me was exhilirating. Hopefully audio files will soon be available.

Overall I was really happy to have made the trip, not only for these stimulating talks, but for all the small moments with hackers from all over Italy which have made my life so rich over the last years. Special thanks to phasa and the Rebeldia crew for their hospitality.

September 30, 2007 Posted by | /, italy, social cooperation, technology | Leave a comment

Hackmeeting 2007, Pisa

The tenth annual Italian hack meeting will take place in Italy this year between the 28th and 30th of September in the wonderful city of Pisa, Tuscany. Due to sickness and force majeur I’ve missed two since attending “Hack Your Brain” in Bologna in 2002, and it’s my favourite tech event. The lion’s share of the presentations are in Italian but there are always a few seminars in english, and people there are friendly and happy to help out the linguistically bamboozled. Oh, I forgot to mention that it’s free, and the event is entirely self-organised by the participants, and that visitors can sleep on the premises. Naturally there are people coding, drinking, tinkering, chatting 24/24, and the whole extravaganza is being hosted by the occupied social centre Rebeldia.

Among other participants this years meeting will include presentations from Emmanuel Goldstein, Andy Mueller and Armin Medosch.

August 1, 2007 Posted by | /, events, italy, social cooperation, technology | 1 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 | Leave a comment

SIAE Copyright Police before the Advocate General

Late night discussion in Oslo turned to copyright enforcement in Italy, specifically the practices of the Societa Italiana degli Autori ed Editori (SIAE), a collective rights organisation. All CDs, Books, Software and DVDs must be registered and carry a small stamp sold by the SIAE at about 3 cents a pop. All live performances of music must make contact with the SIAE and provide a list of songs played and pay an appropriate license. I was amazed to hear that the Perugia office alone apparently employs six people, and that they systematically catalogue all posters on the city streets in their search.

Today the Slovenian Advocate General to the European Court of Justice, Verica Trstenja, issued an opinion on an interesting case challenging the SIAE’s practice. A german national Scwibbert, resident in Italy was the subject of a criminal prosecution for failing to have a SIAE stamps for CDs containing paintings by, amongst others, Giorgio De Chirico. His alleged offense is only the failure to afix the labels; he was in possession of the necessary rights and thus there is no claim of copyright infringement.

The Italian technical regulation was challenged as being a ‘measure with equivalent effect’ to a barrier to the freedom of movement of goods, and in breach of the requirements set out in Directive 98/34 on the ‘provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulation.’ Italian law required the stamps to be used with books prior to 1998 but later extended the scheme to cover other objects. The AG’s position is that the expansion required notification to the EU, and this not having been done, the trial judge in Forli should have refused to apply the provisions. Opinions of the Advocate general are not binding and are intended to guide the Judges of the ECJ, so this story may not have ended yet.

June 28, 2007 Posted by | /, copyright, european union, italy, licenses | Leave a comment

Wine: Children of a Lesser Bacchus and The Tigullio Scene

After non-stop immersion around p2p and piracy, it’s time to reconnect with distincly earthly matters: the vine. Today I flew to Venice, then travelled on to Ravenna, so as to visit a special wine fair named “Children of Lesser Bacchus” which takes place in a small town called Bagnacavallo in Romagna. Behind this curious title lies a festival dedicated to indigenous grapes of the type you will probably never find in your local wine shop. More than 300 different grape varieties are used to produce wine in Italy, far more than any other country, although most are produced in discrete quantities aimed at local markets or afficionados. This festival is one of the rare opportunities to try many of these wines, and I’m keeping this post brief so as to be up early and put in a serious day’s work.

The following day I shift location to Rapallo on the gulf of Tigullio for the annual meeting organised by the most important wine blog/community in Italy, tigulliovino.it. I’ve been following their reviews for some time and am impressed by their approach, so a meeting where their favourite producers show up to present thier wines is too compelling an offer to refuse.

Alas it will only last one day, and damn the Appenines, whose startegic importance I only understand now: despite being at the a couple of hundred kilometers as the bird flies, the journey will take me six hours as we have have to circumnavigate the mountains… Suffering in the cause of pleasure? Well, someone has to do it 🙂

June 2, 2007 Posted by | italy, wine | 1 Comment

Vinious Voyages

The scarcity of postings of late derives from my being over-extended, and my interest in wine bears a fair part of the responsibility. Today I travel to Italy for what is the biggest annual fair, Vinitaly, in Verona. This is a humungous event with thousands of producers and hardcore commerce. After I’ve done my time there I’ll nip off to Critical Wine which is taking place simultaneously in CSAO La Chimica. If i can get a decent wireless connection I’ll certainly be reporting on week’s discoveries.

March 27, 2007 Posted by | italy, wine | Leave a comment