Blogs and online magazines are not required to be officially registered and therefore they cannot be accused of the crime of operating a “clandestine press”. This is the reasoning behind the Italian Supreme Court’s ruling which concludes the trial of Carlo Ruta, the journalist and Sicilian historian and founder of the blog “Accade in Sicilia” (“It happens in Sicily”).
In 2008 the journalist was convicted of the crime of operating a “clandestine press” by the Modica Court for publishing his blog without authorisation, as provided for by art. 5 of the Law 8.2.1948, n. 47. The judgement of the Modica Court was the confirmed by the Catania Court of Appeal.
During the course of the proceedings the defence had argued to no purpose that this blog and all blogs in general are not equivalent to printed newspapers in that they are to be considered simply as tools of information, also taking into consideration the fact that they are not regularly updated.
Despite the imminent prescription of the offence, the outcome of the appeal to the Supreme Court was awaited with a certain apprehension by the defenders of citizens’ online rights.
A confirmation of previous decisions would have represented the introduction of an outdated legal obligation for all Internet blogs, and thus a bureaucratic burden which would realistically have led to many sites closing.
With decision n. 2330, the Third Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of Cassation has overturned all previous decisions affirming that the legal definition of a press product requires two conditions which are not satisfied by electronic newspapers, namely those of printed reproduction and the publication of such materials.
In the opinion of the judge, not even the most recent provisions relating to the registration of newspapers are applicable to Ruta’s blog. Law 7.3.2001, n. 62 (concerning the regulation both on publishing and published products, which modified Law 5.8.1981, n. 416) and which introduced registration for online newspapers, specifies that the obligation is to be carried out only for administrative reasons and exclusively with the aim of obtaining funds set aside for publishing.
Moreover this limitation was confirmed by legislative decree 9.11.2003, n. 70, which explicitly provided that registration for online newspapers is compulsory exclusively for those activities for which service providers require access to public funds.
As appears evident, this is a decision with wide-ranging implications since it affirms that neither blogs, nor even online newspapers are subject to the obligation to register if they do not intend to have access to public funds.