Spain’s Anti-Download Bill Prompts Resignation of Spanish Film Academy president

Alex de la Iglesia said he will resign as president following the Goya awards ceremony Feb. 13


MADRID – Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia announced Wednesday he will resign as president of the Spanish Film Academy following the Goya awards ceremony Feb. 13 in protest to a watered-down version of the anti-download bill expected to pass in the coming weeks.

“After the ceremony, I resign as president,” De la Iglesia wrote in an open letter to the Spanish daily El Pais. “I will continue as a member of the academy, arguing and making mistakes, but as a film director, which is what I am.”

The move comes on the heels of the government’s announcement it had reached a deal with the main opposition group to pass the so-called Sinde Law, which allows a judge to close a website offering illegal content.

In order the reach the deal, the government agreed to modify a pre-existing digital canon charged on electronics purchases benefiting certain authors’ rights entities in compensation for private copy. Additionally, the new version takes up to two weeks to shut down a website rather than the 48 hours in the original version.

De la Iglesia’s protest -- largely seen as a reproach to the Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde-- is a significant act in Spain, where he has worked to change the image of the academy from a club of cinephile insiders only interested in perpetuating their livelihood to that of a representation of Spanish culture interested in giving audiences what they want.

“I trust that he will reconsider and continue working for the academy,” Gonzalez-Sinde said upon hearing of De la Iglesia’s decision.

Meanwhile, the double whammy of the approved version -- largely seen as disappointing and ineffectual by the film and music industries -- and De la Iglesia’s resignation had the Spanish film industry in a tizzy Wednesday.

“Its bad news for the industry, especially just a few weeks from the Goya ceremony,” Spanish producer Gerardo Herrero said. “He was doing great work. As a friend and a filmmaker I respect him. But, it’s preferable the Sinde law rather than no law. We can’t be without any legislation. There are more people who should resign and who don’t resign.”

The Coalition of Content Creators and Industries applauded the government’s agreement, but insisted the new version lacked key aspects and needed to be improved.

“The fast-track process and definitive and non-appealable character of the judicial decisions, the definition and the measures taken against the illegal conduct and the linking web pages, as well as a shortened time frame for approving the legislation are some of the questions that should be resolved in what’s left of the parliamentary procedure in the senate,” the Coalition said in a statement.

Piracy in Spain cost legal content rights owners €5.2 billion ($7.12 billion) in the first half of 2010, more than triple the €1.56 billion ($2.14 billion) in revenue earned by the digital content industry in the same period, according to the Observation of Piracy and Consumption of Digital Content Habits study, conducted by IDC Research for the Madrid-based coalition.

The music sector was the hardest hit, with 97.8 percent of consumption derived from illegal downloads -- estimated at some €2.7 billion ($3.7 billion).

According to the same report, some 77 percent of movie downloads in Spain, worth an estimated €1.87 billion ($2.56 billion), were done illegally. The study also concluded that piracy cost the gaming sector some €262 million ($359 million) in the first half of 2010.