File-Sharing and Link Sites Declared Legal in Spain

After early calls to shut down a Spanish file-sharing site were dismissed, music group SGAE pinned its hopes on success at the full trial. But, the outcome for them was nothing short of a disaster. The judge declared that both non-commercial file-sharing link sites and non-profit use of P2P networks are legal in Spain.

Despite many rulings which have declared file-sharing sites legal if they don’t profit directly from copyright infringements, in recent years its become something of a custom in Spain for music rights groups to attempt to close down sites in advance of a full hearing to assess their legality.

One such case involves eDonkey link site elrincondejesus.com and although fairly low profile worldwide, the site will now start to set headlines.

Back in May last year, site and bar owner Jesus Guerra received a complaint from music group SGAE (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores) which alleged the site abused the copyrights of its members.

In a June court appearance, SGAE hoped to get an early injunction to shut Elrincondejesus immediately in advance of a full hearing which would happen at a later date. Guerra protested that his site is legal, carries no advertising and simply provides links like any other search engine.

Judge Raul N. García Orejudo threw out the request for an immediate closure of the site in July, declaring: “P2P networks, as a mere transmission of data between Internet users, do not violate, in principle, any right protected by Intellectual Property Law.”

Now the full case has been heard and the outcome is nothing short of a disaster for SGAE.

In order to assess if there had been a breach of Spain’s Intellectual Property Act, the court had to decide if simply providing links to copyrighted works was the same as making those works available to the public. Judge Raul N. García Orejudo decided that offering an index of links and/or linking to copyright material is not the same as distribution and noted that under current law there is nothing which prohibits such sites from operating.

In making his decision the judge also looked at the finances of the site. He said the site was not a business since the operator of Elrincondejesus made no direct or indirect profits from its operation. Apparently on a roll after confirming non-profit file-sharing sites are legal, he gave users of those sites a nice surprise too.

“P2P networks are mere conduits for the transmission of data between Internet users, and on this basis they do not infringe rights protected by Intellectual Property laws,” he declared. Therefore, if an individual uses P2P networks like eDonkey or BitTorrent to obtain copyright material for non-profit reasons, the act is completely legal.

The outcome of this case is such bad news for SGAE it’s expected they will appeal the decision. Or get the law changed. Or both.

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