Spain passes anti-piracy law

New law targets producers, not users, of pirated content

MADRID -- Spain's government took a decisive step towards fighting rampant piracy Friday as it approved a measure that will allow it to quickly close websites that facilitate illegal downloading of films and music.

The new law, which was approved in Friday's cabinet meeting, requires a judge to act on a formal complaint filed by the Intellectual Property Commission to remove illicit material or close a website within four days. The judge will summon the parties to determine the correct procedure.

Until now, it has taken over a year for a filed complaint to be heard by a judge.

"The new judicial procedure has no legal loopholes," said Spanish vice president Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, in the press conference where she announced the measure, long requested by the country's content providers.

The Intellectual Property Commission is part of the Culture Ministry, but comprises independent professionals from the legal, technological and judicial sectors. It will receive complaints from citizens and companies.

"It's a positive step," said Joan Navarro, head of the Coalition of Industries and Creators of Content. "They are going after the producers of the piracy, those who spread works without permission from the authors. Not the users, which is the case in France and the U.K."

The news was welcomed across the board by the industry.

"The Federation would like to express its satisfaction with the measures adopted," the producers' lobby FAPAE said in a statement. "In the hope that in practice it will prove effective, FAPAE considers the new legislation indispensable."

The law, part of a larger legislation called the Law of Sustainable Economy, has been controversial since it was introduced last month. Internet users said it would constitute an attack on freedom of expression.

But Friday, it seemed the government had found a happy medium.

"As long as there is previous authorization on the part of a judge, it preserves the fundamental rights of expression," said Barbara Navarro, director of Institutional and Governmental Relations at Google Spain. "These kinds of issues require a fast reaction, but it has to be balanced and fair and protect our rights."

Spain has wrestled with its rampant piracy for more than five years. According to the rights management entity EGEDA, Spain is responsible for some 20% of worldwide illegal downloads.
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