The Italian Supreme Court has ruled, with judgment no. 23230 handed down on May 10, 2012, that the editor of an electronic journal who has not satisfied the registration requirement set forth in article 5 of Law n. 47 dated February 8, 1948 (the Italian Law on the Press) does not commit the offense provided for under article 16 of such Law.
The Supreme Court also clarified that the legislative provisions on the press are not applicable to the internet.
The Court explained that electronic journals does not satisfy the two requirements considered essential by article 1 of law no. 47 of 1948 for a journal to be considered part of the printed press and namely: a) An activity of typographical reproduction: b) The intention that such journal be published.
The Supreme Court Judges proceeded, moreover, to interpret article 1, paragraph 3 of Law No. 62 dated March 7, 2001 (the Law on Publishing) which had equated editorial products to printed material, defining editorial products as products made of paper (e.g. books) or products contained in storage devices (e.g. CD-ROMS) to be published or otherwise broadcast to the public by any means whatsoever, whether it be by electronic means or via the radio or television (with the exception of sound recordings or films).
The Supreme Court pointed out that the Law on Publishing – which had been amended by Law No. 416 dated 5 August 1981 – had introduced, for administrative reasons only, the requirement that online newspapers be registered so that editors might take advantage of the economic benefits foreseen for publishing activities.
This had been confirmed, moreover, by article 7, paragraph 3 of Legislative Decree No. 9 dated April 9, 2003, n. 70, which had made the registration of electronic journals compulsory only for those service providers who wished to avail themselves of the benefits provided by the Law on Publishing.
As a result thereof, the Court acquitted the defendant, ruling that the extension to the editors of electronic journals of the offense provided for under article 16 of the Italian Law on the Press (concerning the underground press) was an analogy in malam partem that was prohibited under Italian criminal law.