Culture sector backs Spain anti-piracy law

Coalition tries to save elements of the legislation

MADRID -- Spain's cultural sector has published an open letter to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, asking him not to change his mind on the so-called anti-downloads law which is part of broader legislation still being drawn up.

A full session of the Coalition of Creators and Content Industries was convened 36 hours earlier in a bid to save elements of planned anti-piracy legislation that have angered tens of thousands of Internet users, who feel strongly that the right of the individual to download and swap tracks and files, is always above authors' rights.

The controversial clause would allow the culture ministry to set up an intellectual property commission of independent experts who would have the power to close Web sites offering links to unauthorized content, without judicial authorization.

When this clause became known in the first week of December, a group of Internet users drew up a "manifesto of fundamental rights in Internet," which was immediately backed online by more than 150,000 people and published on 79,000 Web sites.

Opposition politicians spoke of an "Internet revolution" which must be transferred to the streets, and to calm things down Zapatero said "we will not close any Web [site] or blog." However, the clause remains in place and it is unclear whether the government plans to continue with it.

For this reason, the Coalition's letter today (Dec. 18) asks him not to do an about-turn on the intellectual property commission. The Coalition, which includes labels body Promusicae and collecting society SGAE, as well as similar bodies in the cinema, literature, publishing and videogames sectors, demanded from Zapatero "respect," "security" and "dignity" so that "this blood-letting can stop now."

"We cannot allow another generation proud of its technology to depreciate the culture they enjoy with it," the letter says.

Coalition president Aldo Olcese said the Coalition was willing to open a process of dialogue with "valid" Internet users in the Association of Internet Users, and not the group that wrote the manifest and later briefly met the culture minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde.

A separate inter-ministerial commission, which was formed in October, has handed in its conclusions on how to prevent violations of intellectual property to the eight ministries involved. The ministers must announce their proposals for anti-piracy legislation by Dec. 31, and there is likely to be only one more Council of Ministers (Cabinet) meeting before next year - on Dec. 23.