Around the half of july 2004 autistici.org / inventati.org server received a legal document from Trenitalia (italian railway company, ndt). Before going on holidays, the italian railway company lawyers told us that the website http://autistici.org/zenmai23/trenitalia was "awfully offending" the company and that they were proceeding to a court case against us in Milan, where they asked us to:
Apart from this requests to be fulfilled urgently, the lawyers go on and ask us to refund the moral and actual damages the company suffered from the site.
The website is without doubt critical towards Trenitalia, and criticism was expressed as satire through the detournement of the company home page, where you could discover with a sarcastic and ironic design how Trenitalia offered his cooperation in the Iraq war allowing the transport of weapons on the Italian territory. It was a collective artistic work made by a designer group, as one could discover visiting the site. One of the about 400 websites that our server hosts.
We lost the first round of the court case, and while we wait for the next round where we will be asked to refund the moral and actual damages to the company, we had to remove the site.
But we think that the case is a perfect example of a context we find very worrying. One could substitute Trenitalia with the movie or discographic lobbies that have heavily influenced legislation on copyright, and that have for the most part led to the repressive uprise against file sharing we are facing. Or, instead of the railway company we could have a single paranoid influent person deciding that freedom of speech, privacy or the right to anonimity are minor issues, that can be sacrificed in the name of an unclear and unspecified security need, drowning in the fear of the person next to you. Autistici/Inventati could be an internet service provider as many others, and for this we are being considered responsible and co-authors of anything we are hosting on our server.
It's a disturbing model, exactly the one many people fighting for the survival of freedom in the Internet wanted to avoid. Nonetheless this model is becoming real by the day and with a growing strength.
On http://autistici.org/ai/trenitalia you will be able to find the judge decision and many informations on how the court case is proceeding: it's maybe pointless to say that the eventual conviction to pay moral and actual damage to the italian railway company could mean the end of our server that lives off the voluntary subscription of the people using our services, and that cannot of course afford big amounts of money. And of course a conviction would clearly be another brick in the wall defining the way italian laws are framing freedom.
In a hot summer