Just Above Sunset
July 11, 2004 - The Law in Italy

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Michael Moore and libel and slander and the law in general – all this was discussed in Fahrenheit 460: The Barbie Dialogs - Copyright Law and Ray Bradbury's Anger in last week’s issue.


Oh just forget the US statutes, forget the French odd legal traditions – consider the Italians!


Are Dick Cheney’s famous words on the Senate floor excusable because "an undoubtedly rude expression it is now in common usage?”  He’s really Italian?


Check this out.


'You Are Nobody!' Is Slander

Friday, July 09, 2004


ROME (Reuters) - A driver who told a parking attendant "You are nobody!" has felt the weight of Italy's legal system, which ruled the seemingly innocuous words constituted slander - and fined him heavily.


The tiff over a parking space led to Giulio C. being fined 300 euros ($370) plus 500 euros legal costs when a court in the northeast city of Trieste turned down his appeal.


The court ruled the phrase 'you are nobody' "means precisely 'you are a nonentity' and to state that a person is a nonentity is certainly offensive because it is damaging to the dignity of a person."


The decision led celebrated Corriere della Sera commentator Beppe Severgnini to recall in his column on Friday that this was not the first time Italian appeal courts had deliberated on the definition of slander.


Indeed, over the years a sort of "guide to legitimate offence" has been formulated and Severgnini, quoting the courts, gave a few of the more common examples.


"Ball-breaker" is not slander because although "an undoubtedly rude expression it is now in common usage."


"I'll kick your arse" also passes muster because this is a "robust reaction which should be understood in a figurative way."


Under Italian law, the crime of slander is punishable by a maximum fine of 516 euros.


Our man in Paris, Rick Erickson, had this to say –


And I thought French courts were a bit loopy.  Maybe Trieste isn't really in Italy.


Has everybody forgotten the classic spaghetti western titled 'My Name is Nobody?'


Or the name of the currently active French rocker, Paul 'Nobody' Personne? (A good one.)


It is obvious to me that the hapless Giulio C. obviously thought he saw someone he knew named Nobody, or read the parking attendant's name badge.  "You are Nobody?" he asked.


Does anybody know how to say Pinhead in Italian?  Or Fooey?


And don’t forget, Odysseus was thought clever when he fooled the Cyclops by claiming his name was “Nobody” – so when the beast was finally blinded and asked who did this to him, the poor Cyclops could only say….  Oh you remember the story.


Odysseus was Greek, from Ithaca, so Homer, a Greek, just thought of the Cyclops as, well, somehow Italian, perhaps, and sadly, perhaps from Trieste.


Our man in Atlanta, Rick the News Guy, said this:


I had no idea Italy could be so stupid!


It sounds so much like Sandra Day O'Connor opining that the "God" mentioned in "under God" is not a real god but just some "ceremonial diety". (Hey, I'm offended by this obvious taking of His name in vain, and I don't even believe in the guy!)


He’s a guy?


In any event, when next in Italy – be careful what you say.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....