No, Italy isn't banning the iPhone
On June 23rd, 2017, a lot of noise was made by an Italian newspaper that said that our new Senate Act 2484 had the potential to "ban the iPhone in Italy" (here's an English article). That's just wrong. This is a "device neutrality" bill, protecting a principle every bit as important as net neutrality, and it won't ban the iPhone, but it will protect and benefit Italians.
The controversy stems from Article 4 of the act, which states that a
consumer has the right to use any lawful software (be it open source
or proprietary) on their own devices and no company can prevent the
consumer from doing so. Apple's App Store model does indeed stop iPhone
owners from installing rival software, and Article 4 covers this
practice and others. But Article 4 doesn’t directly ban the concept of
a “closed” app store.
The law only kicks in when two conditions are met: when there is a closed app
store and that store imposes unnecessary discrimination. The normal
remedy in this situation would be a decades-long antitrust action at
the EU level. The new law simplifies this process and gives immediate
relief to ordinary people.
Under this new bill, a complaint can be raised at the Italian
competition authority, the AGCM,
where it will be treated as a consumer protection case which can be
resolved within Italy in just a few months.
To be even more clear, if a software application can technically run on
a device, but it gets discriminated against or banned by the company controlling
the device for a non-technical reason, that would fall afoul of this law
and be judged promptly on consumer protection grounds, by the Italian regulator for antitrust and consumer protection.
This law is, in effect, a safety valve against discrimination. If there
is no discrimination, nothing happens. When discrimination occurs, the
case can be decided with simple and short legal procedures.
There's no risk of a shutdown of Apple (or Microsoft!) in Italy. As a
matter of fact, when Microsoft was heard at the committee of the chamber
of deputies, prior to the approval, the company's execs expressed positive
views on the bill. Apple declined to participate or to file a written
response. Google and Facebook expressed positive opinions as well.
We believe that this law protects consumers with a clear, fast way to
protect their rights against discrimination practiced by large
corporations, and resolve their cases in reasonable time.
Tonight, I'll be one of the participants at LA Cryptoparty and README's After Disruption event at UCLA from 7-930PM; it's a panel and workshop on "Big Tech, the future of labor, and how systems have successfully been co-opted in the past."
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