From "InterActivist", December 23, 2001
Luther Blissett under the Cosh of Law
Destroy the Books! Take down those web sites!
hydrarchist writes: "Some readers will be aware that one of the Italian sections of the Luther Blissett Project encountered serious legal problems in 1998, owing to a book they penned named "Let the Children.....". The bad news is that the decision of the court has finally arrived, and they lost. The good news is that they remain undaunted, and the text remians available. You can enjoy the offending text at this location. Some of the individuals formerly involved in LB now animate the Wu Ming Foundation .
Luther Blissett must pay compensation to the public official Lucia Musti and their book "Let the Children Play" must be destroyed. It's an outright victory, obtained by the magistrate that coordinated the investigations into "Satan's children", over the collective name signatory to the text. The civil tribunal found in her favor on all fronts, declaring that two chapters "Satan's children: Anatomy of a Frame Up" and the "The Dimitry case is closed" of the book edited and published by Castelvecchi and distributed on the internet "are damaging to her reputation". The sentence thus specifies the sentencing of the publishing company to the book’s "withdrawal from commerce and the destruction of the copies" ……... present in bookshops or in storage"...
...Should Castelvecchi wish to continue publication, they will have to agree to remove the two incriminating paragraphs. These same paragraphs must also be eliminated from the internet site. Another company, ‘Cybercore’, will have to erase from a separate site part of an article that takes up the argument, from the title: "The truth is electric, and is distributed, is distributed, is distributed." The convicted company will also have to publish the sentence in several daily newspapers. Musti was granted damages of 80 million lira. Her lawyer Nicola Alessandri, who acted for her together with Guido Magnesi, declared that the principle objective of the action has been accomplished, namely "the examination of the defamatory content of some of the declarations in the book by Luther Blissett." The lawyer Franco Bambini who defended the signatory of the contract [trans. note - between Castellvechi and Luther Blissett], Roberto Bui, insists that the decision will be contested. Bui believes that Musti's demands have been "unrealistic. The book is present on many other web sites and is ineradicable.
From Il Resto del Carlino (local right-wing rag in Bologna, the city where the scandal developed.)
The book registered by Luther Blissett defamed the magistrate Lucia Musti and will be withdrawn from the market. The civil tribunal of bologna has thus decided. The third section of the work titled "Let the children play - Pedophilia: a pretext for a witch hunt", published by Castellvecchi in the October of 1997 and also distributed over the internet by the company ‘2008 Communications’. The book, which takes as it starting-point the trial of the sect of Marco Dimitri, "Satan's Children", was declared injurious to the image of the Bolognese public official, pages in several chapters specifically described the magistrate as 'intolerant and mentally unstable', practically 'the armed wing of the Holy Inquisition' who furthermore had 'a mania for protagonism'. The Tribunal ordered the publisher and other defendants to withdraw the book (which can be republished provided the removal of the incriminatory chapters) and to publish the verdict.
"The principal objective - said the lawyers for the public official, Guido Magnisi and Nicola Alessandri - has been accomplished, as its content, defamatory and damaging to the reputation of Dottoreessa Musti, has been fully demonstrated. As for the compensation (450 million lira was sought) the quantification appears consistent with what is otherwise the trend in the jurisprudence in this area. A trend that unfortunately has not succeeded in finding, as distinct from other countries, parameters adequate to the effective restitution for the damage to the reputation and professionalism, beyond that more broadly moral, that similar episodes generate for each person who is subject to attacks of this type."
There follows a document issued by the Luther blissett Project in March of 1998 outlining the background to the case and stressing its significance with regard to freedom in the digital sphere.
Something serious is happening in Italy. A crackdown recently started in Bologna is going to threaten freedom of speech for Italian netizens. The so-called Musti affair, which we'll sum up in the next paragraph, is a pretext to create a legal precedent, foster (self-) censorship and possibly enforce the (remarkably restrictive) law on the press in the Italian cyberspace.
1. What Is The Musti Affair?
Lucia Musti, vice-District Attorney in Bologna and former Public Prosecutor in a famous trial against an innocuous cult called 'Bambini di Satana' [Children of Satan], sued a 'traditional' publisher (Castelvecchi Edizioni, based in Rome) and two Internet service providers (Cybercore, based in Bologna, and 2mila8, based in L'Aquila) for having published or put into electronic circulation Luther Blissett's book 'Lasciate che i bimbi. "Pedofilia": un pretesto per la caccia alle streghe' (Let The Children... "Pedophilia" as A Pretext for A Witch Hunt]. The book is anti-copyright, thereby it is also freely available on the Web. Lucia Musti wants the book to be banned, all the copies to be destroyed and its electronic versions to be removed from the indicted servers. Moreover, she claims moral damages for 450 million lire (approximately $300,000). She asked the competent magistrate to sequestrate Castelvecchi's accounts and contracts (officially in order to know how many copies were put into circulation - more likely she wants to find out the real names of the authors). The first session of the trial will take place on the 5th of May at the Tribunal of Bologna.
According to Musti, the book's content is 'insulting', 'slanderous' and 'prejudicial' to her reputation and identity. The charge is 'Misuse of the right of criticism'. Why?
The first chapter of Blissett's book consists of a scrupulous account of the BDS trial. In 1996 the three defendants (the cult leader Marco Dimitri and his fellows Piergiorgio Bonora and Gennaro Luongo) were arrested and charged with child rape, satanic ritual abuse and even human sacrifice.
There were no corpses, no reliable witness, no evidence at all whatsoever.
The defendants went through a long, groundless detention before being taken to court. The media upheld their guilt, fostered moral panic and described them as little more than bloodsucking monsters. Eventually they were acquitted, but their life was destroyed. Soon after the arrest the Luther Blissett Project launched a campaign of counter-information and challenged the investigating authorities, whose Jeanne d'Arc-like commander was Lucia Musti. The LBP exposed her lies, her staunch clericalism and the ambiguous role played by the Curia of Bologna [local ecclesiastic authority] through a group of bigots named GRIS [Group for Research and Information on Cults]. Combining media hoaxes, private investigations and a meticulous deconstruction of Musti's propaganda, the LBP helped to free Dimitri and the other guys. Some newspapers (e.g. La Repubblica) were greatly influenced by Blissett's campaign, and explicitly censured Musti's behaviour and fanaticism.
According to the LBP the 'Children of Satan' were scapegoats, and that trial was a manifestation of the sexuophobic/homophobic/obscurantist euro-paranoia about pedophilia, ritual abuse and kiddy porn on the Internet. The first chapter of 'Lasciate che i bimbi', which is far from having a slanderous content, tells the whole story from the arrest to the acquittal, exposing the ways Musti took advantage of her position in order to manipulate the public opinion and persecute innocent people. After having ruinously lost the trial, she even wanted to avoid the consequences on her reputation!
2. The Assault On Internet Service Providers
Musti's 'Atto di Citazione' [certificate of action at law] is a violent assault on the Internet providers whose servers hosted the electronic text of the book. The target is the Internet, its "difference", the features that make it uncomparable to the traditional media, i.e. the horizontality which has granted freedom of speech for those who have no access to the old media and the trans-nationality which has made a lot of wanna-be censors sleepless. The Italian legislation on the Internet is full of blanks, this is the state's chance to fill them, set a dangerous precedent and force providers and netizens to self-censorship. If Musti wins the trial, the Italian Net landscape will be impoverished if not ravaged, with serious repercussions all over Europe and the world. Here's some translated excerpts from the abovementioned Atto di Citazione, dated February 11th, 1998:
'[In Italy] the responsibility of providers for torts committed via the telematic nets is currently the subject of a lively debate. Two fronts oppose each other: one considers providers equal to publishers, thus responsible [for the contents], the other considers them equal to booksellers and newsvendors, thus non-responsible. We think that the 11th article of the law on the press - which is about the common responsibility of the publisher, the owner of the publication and the author - is extensible (at least by analogy) to [Internet] service providers. Although the mentioned law is enforced for "all typographical reproduction, obtained by any mechanical or physio-chemical means, anyhow aimed at publication", we must remember that, despite the wonderful terms currently used to describe the information highways, the material which is put on the Internet is not destined to stay in a virtual world of immaterial communication, indeed, it can be easily fixed on such material supports as computer hard disks or diskettes, as well as reproducible by such mechanical means as printers.'
'However, the responsibility of providers can also be demonstrated according to the article 2050 of the Civil Code [which is about responsibility for dangerous activities]. In fact, this rule is enforced not only for the activities regarded as dangerous according to the law on Public Security and other special laws, but also to all the activities which, to the opinion of the competent judge, can intrinsicly be harmful, even if they are as much licit as useful for society.'
'In the case the competent justice decides there are no premises for the enforcement of the article 2050, we can take into consideration the article 2051 [which is about damages caused by things kept in custody], because it is undeniable that A) [providers] have a direct, concrete power on the sites running on their servers, B) [the sued providers] were aware that the contents of Blissett's text were prejudicial to other people's reputation, and could have easily removed them from the sites [...]'
3. We Need International Solidarity
This struggle has an immediate political value, every Italian provider has to take part in the general mobilization. Besides setting limits to freedom of speech, this precedent will extend their legal liability.
The Net is an organism that can defend herself. Her immunity systems are electronic civil disobedience, the netizens' quick reflexes and the almost instinctive solidarity that doesn't leave abuses unpunished. Musti has made a big mistake taking offence at the Italian Web. We have suggested anyone who runs a site or a server to create pages dedicated to this crackdown, by mirroring (or re-designing) 'Lasciate che i bimbi', and loading the text you are reading. International solidarity is indispensable. We've just started to get media coverage and organise events, while other people are putting the incriminated book on their sites. We' ll constantly update the list and sent it to all the concerned netizens, along with all the material we'll be able to translate into English. We also call on every enemy of obscurantism, repression and censorship to take the field and make a protest against this crackdown, by sending e-mail to Italian newspapers.
Luther Blissett Project, Bologna, last week of March 1998
The Italian version of the book remains available in its entirety at the following sites: