Anti-Piracy Group Aims For Huge BitTorrent Site Purge

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BitTorrent sites are continuing to frustrate anti-piracy groups in Spain. They are not illegal under current law, but with a 3 strikes-style regime ruled out in the country, the entertainment industry feels it has no choice but to go after them. They are now placing their bets on thawing US relations and a subsequent change in the law.

parasitesEarlier this year, the Spanish entertainment industry, under the umbrella group Coalition of Creators and Content Industries, said they would settle only for a ‘3 Strikes’-style regime to deal with online piracy.

With no legal basis, ISPs were extremely reluctant to comply, so government-mandated talks on the issue came to an end. On this particular battle, at least for the time being, the Coalition had to concede defeat, but they weren’t about to give up on the war.

Since it could not force sanctions on the end users, the Coalition – which includes the likes of Promusicae and SGAE – began to focus on Spain’s BitTorrent sites. In his first public appearance as Coalition president, Aldo Olcese noted there were 200 of them, up from 70 in just a few months.

However, as we mentioned in our earlier report, the Coalition’s ability to deal with these sites in the current climate is limited. Spanish courts have ruled time and again that if profits aren’t made directly from copyright infringements, BitTorrent sites are perfectly legal. Add this to the Chief Prosecutor’s May 2006 official instruction that effectively decriminalized non-commercial file-sharing, and the Coalition have an even steeper mountain to climb.

According to a new report, yesterday the names of the 200 sites were handed to the Spanish industry minister following the presentation of a report called Parasites’ Business (video below in Spanish), which was made jointly by the Coalition and CoPeerRight, who claim to be the world’s ‘premier’ anti-piracy company.

Coalition president Olcese pointed out the difficulties his group faces, describing Spain as a “piracy paradise” with “no legal, civil or administrative measures in place to combat this problem.”

CoPeerRight then gave a presentation based on its own research which it says shows that the average Spanish pirate web site can earn an absolutely astonishing €1.5 million ($2.2 million) a year in revenue, this based on an average of 150,000 users each, with some of them drawing 4 million unique visitors in a single month.

However, as we highlighted earlier, pure BitTorrent and other similar ‘linking’ sites do not profit directly from infringements, which means they are entirely legal. The Coalition hopes to be instrumental in changing this position.

Last week the Spanish government announced the creation of a commission to consider legislation to deal with the issue of copyright infringement. Coalition president Olcese told Billboard that he believes “there is a correlation between the setting up of this commission, with the fact the Spain’s assumes the six-month presidency of the European Union next January 1, and with the improved relationship between the leaders of the Spanish and U.S. governments”.

Indeed, earlier this year a very impatient US government growing tired with what it sees as a total lack of inaction on the issue, said that part of Spain’s “priority action” to decrease online piracy should include an agreement between ISPs and copyright holders to prevent infringing content being available on the Internet – code for “3 strikes”, a measure that not even the US has implemented.

While that option has disappeared, last week saw Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero make his first visit to the White House in his six years in office – the first by a Spanish leader since the country’s 2004 Iraq pullout, an event which didn’t go down well with the US. Zapatero is now offering to assist with the closure of Guantanamo Bay, a sign that relations are beginning to warm.

It seems now that the only savior of the Coalition and its partners will be a change in the law, but Coalition president Olcese couldn’t resist mixing up terms in order to create the impression that the 200 BitTorrent sites are currently illegal.

“We gave the government last April our proposals to establish an official register of legal Web sites and act against illegal sites. When we meet the commission, we shall reiterate our position,” he said.

Illegal is not the same as unauthorized or unofficial, as much as the Coalition would like it to be so.

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