Spanish Parliament Dismisses Anti-Download Law

"Parliament has sent out a very clear message: the Spanish culture industry should think about closing up and its productive model should be theft," said the president of the Federation of Music Producers of Spain.


MADRID -- After weeks of negotiations and 12 hours of last-minute haggling over amendments, the so-called anti-download law was shot down by the Spanish parliament late Tuesday night.

The governing Socialist Party failed to find support from any other political party for the measure that would give judges the right to close websites that infringe on intellectual property rights.

Spain's Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde placed strong emphasis on the unpopular law. Spain has the dubious distinction of being a haven for pirates, clocking some 20% of worldwide illegal downloads on the top 10 films of the first half of 2010.

Critics of the law argued that the composition of the commission that would file the complaints on behalf of the Culture Ministry was ambiguous and could be politically manipulated and also that four days was too little for a judge to ascertain if a website was infringing copyright law.

But supporters claimed that waiting longer would render the law useless.

"Parliament has sent out a very clear message: the Spanish culture industry should think about closing up and its productive model should be theft," said Antonio Guisasola, president of Promusicae, Federation of the Music Producers of Spain.

Unlike anti-piracy laws throughout Europe, the Sinde Law -- as it was widely known -- targeted the website administrators, rather than the consumers.

"We need a law that can control Internet downloads," Spanish Film Academy president and cult director Alex de la Iglesa said. "Maybe the Sinde one is imperfect, partial or could be misinterpreted, but it is a law. No one is going after the users, who can still share information as always. There's no better one out there."

Wikileaks cables indicating the United States had taken an interest in Spain's rampant piracy leaked earlier this week could have had an effect on parliamentary voting.

"[The bill] is a response to the pressure wielded by the American film industry lobby as revealed by Wikileaks," Joan Ridao, parliamentarian for the far-left regional ERC political party said. "A pressure the government gave into."

Peer-to-peer sites flourish in Spain. Internet users waged aggressive online protests over the weekend, including hacking political party websites and blacking out P2P websites.

Piracy in Spain cost legal content rights owners €5.2 billion ($6.83 billion) in the first half of 2010, more than triple the 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 earlier this year.

The bill will now be picked up by the Senate in January.