Spain's Proposed Intellectual Property Law Finds Little Support

Despite desperate pleas from the content rights holders for a new legislative framework to fight Spain's unbridled piracy, no one from the sector is pleased with the proposed legislation.

MADRID – When Spanish producer Agustin Almodovar picked up the Gold Medallion awarded by the Spanish rights holders entity EGEDA last week at the XIX Forque Awards, he used the moment to lambast Spain’s present juridical and legislative frameworks that make producers’ rights impossible to protect.

“Producers don’t need sponsors, just an appropriate, coherent and safe juridical and financial framework to attract external investors,” Almodovar said with Spain’s Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert in attendance.

Almodovar’s words couldn’t be more timely.

This month, Spain is set to approve an intellectual property law that has only stirred controversy, with the content rights holders, European Union and governmental advisers warning that it will open a can of worms.

There are three controversial sections to the bill: private copy, piracy and the system of collective rights management.

Spain was forced to remove its so-called digital canon—which generated a reported €90 million ($122.1 million)-- when European and Spanish courts ruled it illegal and indiscriminate.

The government replaced it with €5 million ($6.8 million) earmarked in the general budget for compensating rights holders. Intellectual property entities say the government has determined the actual figure should be €18 million ($24.4 million).

Regardless of the figures, though, just last month, Spain’s State Counsel, which acts as the utmost adviser of the government, called on the government to review in its entirety the bill, specifically citing the private copy section, saying it “presents elements that are questionably in keeping with European law” and that private copy “could create numerous illegal habits in the Spanish society that are related to the copy of protected works.”

Additionally, the counsel said the budget credits are limited, which means that it would require “fixing an amount in the general budgets to compensate the equivalent of damage, which would not reach the adequate levels of compensation demanded by European law, when applying some of the modifying mechanisms of the budget credits … like transfers, extraordinary credits or supplements.”

Additionally, the Spanish government is looking to reform the penal code to make penalties stiffer for links to illegal content.

However, much to the dismay of critics such as Antonio Fernandez, the general manager of the Association for the Defense of Intellectual  Property, who say the government is favoring the big boys like Google and other aggregators.

The reform “conveniently doesn’t attack [them], because it leaves aggregators absolutely out,” Fernandez said in an interview with El Mundo. “In no way are we saying that this government isn’t concerned about culture. The only thing is that there are many prejudices that are conditioning its policies and that come, in many cases, from misinformation.”

The most recent figures from an independent study requested by the Coalition of Creators shows 84 percent of digital content downloads in Spain are illegal, worth an estimated €15 billion ($20 billion) to the content industries.

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