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article imageSpain to make providers of 'pirated' Web content walk the plank

By Anne Sewell     Sep 21, 2013 in Internet
Madrid - Well, not walk the plank exactly, but tough new laws are to be introduced in Spain and were set for approval in Parliament on Friday. The new laws call for six years in prison for linking to "pirated", copyright-protected material from webpages.
Spain is changing the rules due to what is called "rampant" and "endemic" piracy in the country.
Anyone linking to "pirated" material, such as films or music, from their webpages are likely to see six years behind bars.
End users, who downloaded the content using those links, won't be punished apparently. Also, according to Reuters, peer-to-peer file-sharing sites and search engines are exempt from the the new laws and will not face legal action.
Up until now Spanish legislation has only provided for sentences of up to four years for people who "reproduce, plagiarize, distribute or pass on" copyrighted material without the consent of the author. Now offenders will be facing six years.
Judges will also be able to order offending webpages to remove the illegal content and in certain cases, authorities will even be able to block those websites.
However, while Spanish legal experts welcome tougher laws, they say there are still concerns about the issue.
David Velázquez of the firm Cuatrecasas said that the new laws aren't clear enough, and would make life difficult for the courts.
He said that to prove a crime was committed, "it is necessary to show that there is a significant breach of intellectual property rights."
"But how is that level going to be set in court? What volume will be required for a crime?"
Velázquez also said that to prove a crime had actually taken place would mean showing that the administrators of the webpage had intended to make money. which he said would be difficult to establish.
"The legislative tools have been improved but there are still gaps," Velázquez told El País (in Spanish).
Carolina Pina, intellectual property expert with Spain's Garrigues law firm also spoke to the newspaper El País on the subject:
"The regulation of links is complicated and its practical application can cause a lot of problems."
"It can hurt businesses or limit the development of the information society," she said, suggesting that legislators needed to "follow the money".
The new proposal has also led to heated debate between the Interior Ministry - under pressure from Internet ISP's seeking a softer law - and the Ministry of Culture, currently besieged by artists seeking to halt their loss of income through piracy.
The US placed Spain on an Internet piracy blacklist back in 2008 due to the large number of illegal downloads made in the country.
However, when the government of Mariano Rajoy put through tougher legislation including the so-called Sinde Law, the US removed Spain from the blacklist.
The Sinde Law was named for former Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde, and allowed for the closure of websites offering illegal copyrighted content. The law had been introduced initially by the former Socialist government but was not put into action until the PP came into power.
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