Wednesday 25 September 2013

Will the pain in Spain fall mainly on those with blame?

According to Reuters, Spain has now passed legislation that will make it a criminal offence to run a website that provides links to sources of unlicensed content, and anyone convicted of running such an operation could face up to six years in jail in "aggravated cases". The law only targets those sites that are run for profit (but that includes those making "direct or indirect profit") and the Spanish government has said that carrying advertising would be sufficient to bring a website into the system. The new legislation introduced as part of a wider reform of the country's penal code.

The new law enables rights owners in Spain to target websites and operators who facilitate copyright infringement - as well as those who actually distribute copyright material without licence. That said, the new law recognises the legitimate functions of both search engines and P2P networks, and both are seemingly specifically excluded from the new rules. Users of link-sharing sites would also be excluded from the new provisions. Confirming the new rules, Spain's Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told reporters: "This is a real balance between protecting copyright and new technologies": Reuters suggest that the move is to keep Spain away from the top of the USA's naughty list (the USTR's Special 301 list) with one Spanish minister, the country's Education and Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert, more or less admitting this back in April when acknowledging that the new laws were a move to avoid trade sanctions saying "this reform should satisfy those who are worried about Spain's insufficient level of protection for intellectual property".

In March 2013 The Spanish Council of Ministers approved  the draft reform of the Intellectual Property Law, also known as Lassalle law, designed to "punish more harshly some breaches of intellectual property rights" and preventing payment processors and advertisers dealing with infringing websites. Back in January 2012, seemingly after the US had threatened Spain it would be added to the priority Special 301 list, Spain introduced the so-called Sinde Law designed to offer greater protections for rights holders, which included a provision to close infringing sites. Since that law came into force, it has been criticised as ineffective and cumbersome, and Spanish internet traffic has been switching away from websites providing links to copyrighted material, which were targeted by the law, towards peer-to-peer or content-sharing services.

The new legislation is expected to come into effect by the spring of 2014.

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