Hollywood Lobby Applauds Spain’s Copyright Law

At a time when news about Spain tends to be pretty bad, the head of the Hollywood lobby came to Madrid to say the country is doing something right–when it comes to efforts to stop illegal file-sharing.
Chris Dodd, formerly a U.S. senator and now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, last week met Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and, he said, to congratulate him on the so-called Sinde Law, which takes its name from Spain’s former culture minister.

This law–approved by Mr. Rajoy’s cabinet in its very first meeting, in Dec. 2011, right after Angeles González-Sinde herself was replaced–has made it easier for Spain’s authorities to compel file-sharing websites to remove links to copyrighted content. Just as importantly, the law has made it possible for Spain to get out of a club it didn’t want to belong to: the U.S. government “watch list” of countries that don’t enforce intellectual rights adequately, included in the so-called Special 301 Report.

This report has long been a target of criticism by open-source software and Internet freedom activists. In its 2011 edition, five European Union countries were on the list, including Spain. In 2012, only three of those remain: Romania, Greece, and Italy.

Those, Mr. Dodd said, would do well to follow Spain’s example, with whichever local characteristics necessary, in order to get themselves out of the list. This is important because countries that stay in the list may eventually become the target of trade sanctions.

“I fought hard to get Spain out of that, I was impressed by what Spain’s government did,“ Mr Dodd said in an interview in Madrid.

What Spain did under the new law was to create an inter-ministerial committee that takes on complaints from owners of copyright. Since it started working in March last year, the committee has contacted 14 file-sharing websites, asking them to remove the offending material, or else face possible legal action. A spokesperson for Spain’s Culture department says all of them have complied in all cases.

Francisco George, an official at Spain’s branch of the Pirate Party, an international group that opposes measures to constrain file-sharing, says the Sinde committee is secretive and dangerous for Internet freedom as it works outside of the legal system.

The Pirate Party would like media producers such as the movie industry lower their prices, to account for the fact that, in the digital era, production costs are dramatically reduced by the ease of copying. At the same time, it opposes for-profit file-sharing which, Mr. George says, is only marginally impeded by Sinde’s Law.

The Pirate Party estimates that fewer than 150 uploaders account for the absolute majority of Spain’s file-sharing copyright violations, and crackdowns on websites like Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload end up hurting those who use cyberlockers to store their own legal content.

“What they do is like going after the yellow pages because they have telephone numbers for criminals or whatever,” Mr. George says. “What they should do is go after the uploaders… But they don’t, because legally that’s so much more complicated.”


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