40,000 protest delay of Spanish piracy law

Piracy cost Spanish gov't $614 mil in uncollected taxes

MADRID -- Pirating cost the Spanish government some €500 million ($614 million) in uncollected taxes in 2009, according to the Association of Spanish Video Companies (AEVIDEO) president Jose Luis Carrera.

Carrera made the announcement as he presented 40,000 signatures in the Spanish parliament Tuesday (June 15) to protest the "excessive slowness" of the passage of the Law of Economic Sustainability, also known as the "anti-download law" as it allows judges to close websites offering illegal content.

Carrera said the €500 million were extrapolated from 2004 figures that include not only sales tax, but public health benefits, income tax from fired employees, municipal taxes and administrative funds.

The law is not expected to be passed until late October or early November.

"The government is not interested in passing the law because it is afraid of the public outcry and how it will cost them votes," Carrera told THR. "But the opposition acts the same way out of fear of losing votes."

Rampant piracy in Spain cost the music, video and film industries some €5.1 billion ($6.3 billion) -- or triple the €1.6 billion ($2 billion) earned in sales by those industries -- in the second half of 2009, according to a study released earlier this month.

Spain is responsible for an estimated 20% of worldwide downloads, securing it the dubious distinction of one of the top pirating havens in the world. The 10,000 points of sale for video rentals in 2004 have all but disappeared, dropping to less than 2,500 in 2010.

Most experts blame the country's permissive culture and laws for encouraging piracy, while AEVIDEO also points a finger at author's rights entity SGAE for championing a confusing "digital canon" that passed two years ago that taxes electronics because they can be used to copy digital material for private use.

"Yes it's true that there is a certain culture here," Carrera said. "But we had a culture where people used to drive very fast and poorly too. And through mature laws, fines and penalties, it has changed dramatically. But the authorities have to take it seriously."