In recent months a controversial piece of legislation aimed at shutting down file-sharing sites has resulted in massive opposition from the public in Spain. In December the protests appeared to have been successful as the House of Representatives rejected the proposal. However, yesterday the Spanish Government resurrected the law with some minor changes, a move that has outraged the public.
Traditionally, Spain has been one of the few countries where courts have affirmed that P2P-sites operate legally. This, to the disappointment of the United States who behind closed doors helped the Spanish Government to come up with new laws to protect the interests of copyright holders.
As a result the Spanish Government proposed new legislation last year under which sites offering links to copyright works could be taken offline without a judicial order. This could potentially shut down all the major file-sharing sites, and is generally seen by the public as a plain act of Internet censorship.
This legislation, an amendment which is part of the Sustainable Economy Law (LES), was drafted by Minister of Culture Ángeles González-Sinde with help the United States Government. The proposed legislation, also known as ‘The Sinde Act’, has been widely protested by the public and last month these protests resulted in a major victory for those who are against the legislation.
After a lengthy debate the House of Representatives decided to adopt the Sustainable Economy Law, but reject the controversial amendment. This meant the law would go to the Senate without the amendment, but yesterday this turned out to be idle hope.
Just hours before the deadline to submit new amendments passed, a coalition of The Socialist Party (PSOE), the People’s Party (PP) and Convergence and Union (CiU) reintroduced ‘The Sinde Act’ with some minor changes. This decision comes after several weeks of meetings behind closed doors between the involved parties.
The new and revised version of the legislation has been changed on a few points, but the main goal still stands. It will make it easier for the authorities to shutdown P2P sites and others that facilitate copyright infringement. The proposal will be voted on by the Senate in the coming weeks.
The major change compared to the previous version is that the new Sinde Act will allow for more “judicial control”, which in reality means that a judge has to sign off on a request to hand over the details of a website owner. However, there is no judge required to determine whether a site is “infringing copyrights” or not.
Today the Spanish news is dominated with hundreds of reports on the new legislation and the reactions from the public are not mild. The majority of Internet users and many artists disapprove of the new legislation, and even the President of the Academy of Cinema, Álex de la Iglesia, criticized it as “a law that does not suit anybody.”
“It would have been better to start from scratch. It is a law that from the beginning has been very unpopular,” De la Iglesia added. Minister of Culture Ángeles González-Sinde did not want to respond to this critique and said the law promotes “innovation” and poses no threat to the Internet at all.
The law will now be sent to the Senate in a few weeks where it’s expected to be passed through easily by the three parties who approved it yesterday. However, the public is not yet giving up yet, and major off- and online protests are currently being planned. No doubt that we will hear more about this in the near future.