Internet Group Demands End to Government P2P Propaganda

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In November, the Spanish government launched a media campaign which heavily criticized file-sharers. Now, Spain's Association of Internet Users has issued a complaint, claiming the content "recklessly offers information that lacks all legal basis, with the exclusive aim of re-educating public opinion." Sounds familiar.

SpainSpain has hit the headlines a number of times in 2008 as it deals with the file-sharing phenomenon. Notably, following a Spanish case concerning telecoms company Telefonica, on 29 January 2008, the European Court Justice held (.pdf) that community law does not require member states to oblige ISPs to disclose details of suspected file-sharers to enable a copyright owner to bring civil proceedings. This was an important decision, one that is yet to be tested elsewhere in Europe.

Anti-piracy lobby groups are always keen to paint file-sharing as a very serious offense, and have had some successes in this respect. Despite the fact that in 2006 a Spanish judge ruled that a man who shared copyright music didn’t break the law because he made no money, and another ruled a BitTorrent tracker legal on the same basis, the anti-piracy lobby presses on.

In November, the Spanish government launched a TV, radio and print media campaign called “Si eres legal, eres legal” (If you are legal, you’re legal) which strongly criticized citizens who used the Internet to download copyright works. This campaign has annoyed many people and groups, and the opposition isn’t staying silent.

Recently a group of Spanish free-culture supporters demanded the withdrawal of the campaign and a public apology from the government. In protest, they arranged a demonstration on the doorstep of one of the leading political parties in Spain. After notifying the police, the groups – Compartir es Bueno (Sharing is good) and Hacktivistas (Hacktivists) – sat in front of the socialist party headquarters and shared copyright material. The police did nothing, suggesting a de facto acceptance of their actions.

Now, according to a report, it is the turn of Spain’s Madrid-based Association of Internet Users to make a formal complaint to the government.

An official statement from the group claims that the campaign “recklessly offers information that lacks all legal basis, with the exclusive aim of re-educating public opinion.”

Writing to Culture Minister César Antonio de Molina, the Association of Internet Users said the campaign must cease, since it risks “the manipulation of public opinion to the benefit of private interests,” i.e, come down on the public in order to serve the recording industry.

The association asserts that the campaign “includes information that is untrue, and therefore is contrary to the constitutional principle of freedom of information, with regards to intellectual property and the protection of authors’ rights, according to current legislation.”

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