Spanish Film Academy President Alex de la Iglesia May Resign Over Watered-Down Anti-Download Law

The Spanish government reached a deal Tuesday with the main opposition party to pass the Sinde law in a watered down version.


MADRID -- The Spanish government reached a deal with the main opposition party to pass the so-called anti-download law in a watered down version from its original, provoking the frustration and indignation of Spanish filmmakers Tuesday.

Rumors of Spanish Film Academy president Alex de la Iglesia’s intention to resign his post -- where he has energetically negotiated with government and Internet users to reach an agreement for solid anti-piracy legislation -- spread rapidly following a Twitter exchange between De la Iglesia and some of his followers.

By mid-day various national newspapers were reprinting on their websites the Twitter exchange that suggested De la Iglesia might quit following the Goya Awards ceremony on Feb. 13.

An official at the Spanish Film Academy said Tuesday there was no official comment and that the entity would emit a press release later in the day to that effect.

The commotion follows a deal to rescue the law, known as the Sinde Law -- named after Spain’s Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, that allows a judge to order a website closed for offering illegal content. Lobbies for Internet users have countered the law as a an attack on civil liberties, while content creators and rights holders say it is the first step in fighting Spain’s rampant piracy.

The new version calls on a judge to intercede several times in the process to close a website, which could take up to two weeks rather than the 48 hours in the previous version. Additionally, the government must modify the digital canon imposed on all electronics’ purchases and earmarked for specific authors’ rights bodies to cover lost revenue from private copy.

“The best thing would have been to start from zero,” De la Iglesia said on Twitter. “It’s a very unpopular law. Pitting creators against the web is a huge mistake. I’ve spent months trying to find a consensus among all sides and the politicians haven’t listened to us. This law is not the solution.”

Not everyone agreed with the dismal outlook, though.

“We support the pact between the government and the PP because, although it’s weak and far from ideal, it’s seems a fundamental to us that in this country that piracy begins to be persecuted and prosecuted,” said Antonio Maria Avila, executive director of the Publishers Federation of Spain. “At least it sends a message to society. Spain has become the piracy haven of Europe.”

Spain is reportedly responsible for some 20% of illegal downloads worldwide of the top 10 films from 2010.

“Now we have to prepare a change in our industry model,” said Spanish Producers Federation president Pedro Perez. “We were clumsy and slow to act, but now we’re in gear.”

The law was rejected in its original version by the lower house of the Spanish parliament in December. The senate rescued it and negotiated the new version with several amendments to make it more palatable for the opposition, which was strongly against the digital canon. The law will now be reviewed in committee and voted on in the upper house within a month.