Spaniard jailed for operating P2P site

New culture minister cracking down on file sharing

MADRID -- A Spanish court has sentenced a 22-year-old man to six months in jail for operating an illegal file-sharing Web site.

The verdict coincides with the April 7 appointment of new Spanish culture minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, who has voiced her strong opposition to P2P activity and its effect on the music and film industries. She was previously president of the Cinema Academy.

Until now, legal cases in Spain involving P2P downloads have been shelved or the accused party was acquitted, essentially on the grounds that no profit motive had been proved. Several court cases in Spain had laid down jurisdiction that established that no crime is committed if no monetary exchange can be proved; the fact that a work was protected by copyright law was not taken into consideration if no profit motive was apparent.

But now a judge in the wine-making region of La Rioja has jailed Adrian Gomez Llorente, and fined him €4,900 euros ($6,496) for violating intellectual property laws by obtaining economic benefits via his site, infopsp.com, created by him to offer movie and video game links. The profit motive was not a direct cash payment, but revenue from advertising that appeared on the site.

The La Rioja ruling says Gomez "put at the disposal of [Internet] users means to obtain illicit copies of works protected by authors rights... obtaining a pirated copy in their computers without the consent of the [work's] title holder."

The ruling showed that in addition to making money out of the advertising on his site, Gomez also earned income from mobile phone SMS Premium messages.

When police investigated the Web site, it had 17,314 registered users who did not pay directly, but had accepted as a condition of the obligatory registration that their details would be passed on to third parties.

In this way, Gomez created and administered another three Web sites where users could download movies and video games. He admitted that between the four sites, he had offered some 500 links for direct downloads.

Gomez was tried and sentenced after being denounced by video-game owners' association ADESE, and Spanish videographic union UVE.

The film and music industry in Spain will be hoping the case sets a new precedent on file-sharing. It follows a high-profile Spanish case against various BitTorrent tracker sites, which were accused by Microsoft, Spanish authors' and publishers' collecting society SGAE, Spanish labels association Promusicae, and rights group Egeda of facilitating links to copyrighted material via P2P application eMule.

Both a Madrid court in 2007 and the provincial Madrid high court in 2008 ordered a stay of proceedings in the case, arguing that offering links was not a criminal activity and did not violate intellectual property laws.

A Stockholm court verdict is due on April 17 in the case against Swedish BitTorrent tracker the Pirate Bay.
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