Google execs on trial in Italy over a video

Read that headline again because it boggles the mind (mine, at least): Italian prosecutors have placed four Google executives on criminal trial over their roles — which were nonexistent — in the posting of a video that depicted the taunting of a disabled child.

They could get three years in jail. The trial, which had been suspended until this week, is nowscheduled to proceed in March.

“It’s akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post,” a Google spokeswoman told IDG News Service. “Seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet.”

The matter was first brought to light by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), which notes: “According to Google, more than 200,000 videos are uploaded to Google Video each day. Under EU legislation incorporated into Italian law in 2003, Internet service providers are not responsible for monitoring third-party content on their sites, but are required to remove content considered offensive if they receive a complaint about it. Between Nov. 6 and 7, 2006, Google received two separate requests for the removal of the video – one from a user, and one from the Italian Interior Ministry, the authority responsible for investigating Internet-related crimes. Google removed the video on Nov. 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests.”

Yet four Google employees remain in legal jeopardy, their very liberty on the line. Mind-boggling.

Of course, it’s somewhat difficult for this American to muster too much indignation over the notion of local authorities exercising egregiously excessive control over an Internet that they do not control. We’ve had our fair share here, what with — to cite but two examples — the state of Kentucky seizing domain names and the governor of Massachusetts threatening to jail online poker players (I’ve never believed he was serious).

Italian authorities appear to be serious, despite widespread ridicule and condemnation.

Might last month’s trial suspension signal a rethinking of the matter? Apparently not.

The IAPP quoted an attorney familiar with Italian legal proceedings: “This is very common. The first one or two days usually involve making sure everything is fine from a procedural point of view.”

The only way everything could be fine from a procedural point of view would be if this case ceased proceeding.

Kindle’s a billion-dollar business? All by itself?

In anticipation of Amazon‘s expected unveiling of Kindle 2.0 in New York City, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney has created a bit of a buzz with his estimate that sales of the e-reader could reach $1.2 billion as early as next year. Amazon doesn’t release such information, but Mahaney noodled his numbers by combining various strings of publicly available data.

Granted, Kindle has the Oprah Seal of Approval and all, but sales of that magnitude cannot be attributed to even the most powerful celebrity endorsement. It’s becoming clear that the e-reader has come of age.

What’s left to be seen is whether Amazon can keep up with demand. Last year we wrote about the item’s untimely (as in pre-holiday shopping) back-order delay of 11 to 13 weeks. As I type, Amazon’s site says that it is still sold out: “Please order now to reserve your place in line.”

How about making enough so the line’s not too long? Is that asking too much? My e-reader is still

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