The US pressure on Spain to censor the Internet has paid off
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Deutsch: Internetzensur: Einflussnahme der USA auf Spanien macht sich bezahlt
The US has continued to pressure Spain since 2008 to adopt measures against users allegedly illegally downloading copyrighted music and movies from file-sharing networks. And now this pressure has paid off; the Spanish Congress approved at the end of 2011 the so-called Sinde law (Ley Sinde) which allows the closing down of websites deemed to illegally download copyrighted material.
Wikileaks cables revealed in 2010 that the US pressured Spain to pass stronger copyright enforcement laws threatening to put Spain on their Special 301 Report (a watch list of countries with "bad" intellectual property policies), threat which they actually delivered.
"We propose to tell the new government that Spain will appear on the Watch List if it does not do three things by October 2008. First, issue a (Government of Spain) announcement stating that Internet piracy is illegal, and that the copyright levy system does not compensate creators for copyrighted material acquired through peer-to-peer file sharing. Second, amend the 2006 "circular" that is widely interpreted in Spain as saying that peer-to-peer file sharing is legal. Third, announce that the GoS (Government of Spain) will adopt measures along the lines of the French and/or UK proposals aimed at curbing Internet piracy by the summer of 2009," says the text of the diplomatic cable announcing the pressure tactics revealed by WikiLeaks.
The Sinde Law was promoted by Ángeles González-Sinde Reig, former head of the Spanish Academy of Cinematographic Arts & Sciences, when becoming Minister of Culture in 2009. Sinde Law was giving a government committee the power to blacklist Internet sites allegedly trafficking copyrighted files.
The new legislation creates a government body, the Commission of the Intellectual Property which will have the power to evaluate sites and force Internet service providers to block, within ten days, the sites deemed to be trading in pirated material.
The owners of the websites have three days to present arguments before the commission to justify their activities and after the commission has decided the removal of certain content, the ISPs have 24 hours to block the service or to remove the content, and the website owners have no access to appeal.
If website owners don´t comply voluntarily, a court will intervene to close down the website or to block the service, requiring to the ISPs to reveal the identity of the website owners.
The US supported Sinde law, lobbying hard for her measure, even asking support from Spanish opposition parties, with the purpose to have Spain's position influence later on the European Union during Spain's EU presidency, as appeared in Wikileaks revealed cables.
But, despite the government's expectations, the opposition to Sinde law was fierce, being strongly criticized by Internet groups and lawyers, which has led to the bill being stopped in the Parliament at the end of 2010.
The government left the law for the incoming administration to handle after November 2011 and the new government approved very rapidly a modified version of the law where, for instance, judges will have to issue the actual blacklist order. It appears that this sudden decision was also pressured by the US.
El Pais revealed on 12 December 2011 a letter of the US ambassador addressed to the Spanish officials complaining the law had not yet entered into force.
"The government has unfortunately failed to finish the job for political reasons, to the detriment of the reputation and economy of Spain. I encourage the Government of Spain to implement the Sinde Law immediately to safeguard the reputation of Spain as an innovative country that does what it says it will, and as a country that breeds confidence," said the letter. The ambassador also reminded Spain of having already been once on the special 301 Report and warned of the risk of the country being further downgraded and returned to the "Priority Watch List" of "the worst global violators of intellectual property rights", which can lead to serious commercial sanctions.
Spanish Internet users are already organizing a boycott, calling Internet users not to purchase or consume any artistic or intellectual works of authors, producers, agents, or managers who have explicitly expressed or participated lobbying for Sinde law. Victor Domingo Prieto, President of La Asociación de Internautas has stated that "when the Intellectual Property Commission take its first steps (of blocking sites), reports of the unconstitutionality of their decisions will occur immediately."
How the US pressured Spain to adopt unpopular Web blocking law (5.01.2012)
US slammed Zapatero for not passing "Sinde" anti-piracy law (4.01.2012)
Spain's SOPA Law: How It Works And Why It Won't (9.01.2012)
Anti-internet piracy law adopted by Spanish government (3.01.2012)
The Government of PP approves the regulation of Sinde Law and eliminates the
licence (only in Spanish, 30.12.2011)
Spain's Ley Sinde: New Revelations of U.S. Coercion (9.01.2012)
EDRi-gram: Spanish anti-piracy law approved by the Government (24.03.2011)