Mama Mia – Italian Blogs Just Got a Lot Hotter
Blogging is nothing new these days — it seems as if everyone and their grandma has a blog and is sharing whatever it is that winds them up with the world.
It's true that blogging has changed the way news gets around: it's often bloggers who have the story first, and bloggers who do the digging to find the deep-down details. However, while many bloggers qualify as legitimate journalists — and should be accorded all the rights and responsibilities of journalists — it would be a stretch, we think, to suggest that blogs are newspapers. Nonetheless, that's just what an Italian judge has done, and if the reports are right, it leaves every blogger in Italy open to being shut down at the stroke of the judge's pen.
How did it happen? Apparently, Italian law requires all newspapers to be registered — a relic of post-WWII attempts to keep what fascist fringe there remained under control. The measure, called stampa clandestina, has been hanging around since 1948 — long before the internet was a gleam in a geek's eye. That didn't stop Carlo Ruta — an author and historian — from being brought up on charges of running a newspaper without a permit, though, and it didn't stop the judge from nailing him with a fine and a take-down order. Of course, it hasn't stopped him from putting up a new one, either — yet.
The more worrisome aspect, though, is where this ruling may lead. If any blog not registered with — and if we've read the intent of the 1948 law correctly, approved by — the powers-that-be can be summarily shut down, a dramatic chill is likely to settle over the Italian blogging community. Of course, the ruling could backfire as well, if tens of thousands of bloggers flooded government offices with endless piles of registration paperwork. There is, of course, always hope — surely the matter will be appealed, and a judge with a better view of the big picture will stick stampa clandestina where it belongs.