Spain implements web blocking law

February 2012



The BBC reports that the Spanish Parliament has implemented the somewhat controversial Sinde law. The legislation, which had already been enacted into law, will make it easier for content owners to target copyright infringing websites from March 2012 onwards. The legislation was initially criticised for being ‘US influenced’ and, like ‘three strikes’ Law Hadopi in France, because it lacked any provision for scrutiny by the courts. The latter point has been rectified and the legislation creates a government body with powers to force internet service providers to block sites. The Intellectual Property Commission will decide whether it wants to take action against an infringing site or the ISPs and websites providing links to infringing content and the case will then be passed to a judge to rule on whether the site should be shut down, this judicial process being completed within seventy two hours.

A report commissioned by a coalition of Spain’s rights-holders suggested that piracy in Spain cost legal content rights owners $6.8 billion in the first half of 2010 alone, claiming 97.8% of all music consumption and 77%  of movie downloads in Spain were illegal. Illegal downloading in Spain constitutes around 45% of internet use according to market-research firm Nielsen, compared to 23% average in the top five EU markets.

The law Sinde, named after the former Spanish culture minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde and introduced by the previous Government, attempts to introduce new regulations which will reduce levels of illegal file-sharing and would offer a fast-track system through which content owners can force commercial websites that exist primarily to assist others in their illegal file-sharing offline – potentially within ten days of a complaint being made

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria who announced the full passage of the law a year after it was first passed, said that the aim of the law was “to safeguard intellectual property, boost our culture industries and protect the rights of owners, creators and others in the face of the lucrative plundering of illegal downloading sites.”

In the UK, the three strikes provisions of the Digital Economy Act remain dormant although Mr Justice Arnold’s decision in Newzbin 2 has proved effective in forcing BT and encouraging other ISPS to block access to infringing sites. In France the aforementioned law Hadopi has resulted in some 18 million (yes, really!) IP addresses being monitored in first  nine months and Hadopi, the body set up to administer the policy, said in mid-2011 that it had sent a total of 470,000 first warnings by email, with 20,000 users receiving a second warning. That said, only 10 people who appeared to ignore the two warnings were asked to come and explain their actions to the agency.

Opponents have promised to flood the Spanish courts with appeals over what they say is an unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression and are also promoting a boycott of artists who have supported the anti-piracy law and distributing legal instructions to avoid prosecution.

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