In Spain, anti-piracy law looms over key ruling

February 27th, 2012 by Annie Berlin

In Spain, the entertainment industry has suffered a loss in its running battle against copyright piracy as a Spanish court dismissed a case against Cinetube.es, a video-indexing site that directs users to copyrighted material.  While in some jurisdictions simply linking to infringing content in certain instances can constitute copyright infringement, Spanish courts generally have been unwilling to hold such websites liable. This view has enabled Cinetube to successfully argue that the video-sharing site did not violate any laws merely by linking to potentially infringing material.  In a recent Billboard article, Andres Cala discusses why the judge ruled that Cinetube has not committed any crimes — though the issue also may prove moot, if lawmakers adopt a new anti-piracy law.

Even though this decision may offer a breather to those pursued in Spain as pirates, there’s more choppy waters ahead as Madrid in just weeks will take up new anti-piracy legislation named after the former Spanish Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde and known as the Sinde law.  Under the current system, a copyright holder can have infringing material removed only after demonstrating lawful ownership.  The Sinde law will create administrative commissions to replace courts in interpret and decide infringments under copyright legislation.  A BBC article explains that this law would allow for rights-holders to report websites that contain or are hosting infringing content to a government commission, which then would rule if it would act against an infringing site or the ISPs supporting it; cases then would be passed to a judge to rule whether the site should be shut down.

This system aims to simplify the way copyright holders can seek to take down infringing material from a site.  Under the current system, to get a website to remove a link to infringing material, rights-holders first must prove a link was, in fact, an  infringement under Spanish law. This can take months or years and cost a lot of money.  The Sinde law system could accomplish the same results in a week, potentially allowing rights-holders swift take-downs — a prospect that’s huget, for example, to film companies seeking to quash access to leaked films or for record companies deal quickly with leaks of music from albums.

While streamlining the copyright complaint and simultaneously dooming sites such as Cinetube, the Sinde law measure has drawn heavy fire, called, for example, “another example of bad copyright law eating away at the safeguards around freedom of expression,” said Peter Bradwell from the Open Rights Group in Britain.  Spain has seen strong opposition to the Sinde law from bloggers, journalists and tech professionals. Opponents say this type of law circumvents proper legal processes and represents a surrender to copyright lobbyists.

Sinde-style laws have been attempted in other countries: the French put in place Hadopi, a body set up to track pirates and administer anti-piracy policy.  In Britain, the Motion Picture Association tapped copyright law to force BT to block access to Newzbin, a members only site with links to pirated material. And in the US, of course, there is the hotly contested SOPA meausre, which is proving to be increasingly controversial.

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Posted in Copyright, Intellectual property, Technology


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