The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Copyright enforcement by blocking websites  has divided opinion in Spain and  gets the thumbs down from the law-makers. But newly released  Wikileaks cables  flush out how the USTR offered to 'help' shape the text. 

A  Spanish Parliamentary committee has rejected  a new  law  which would have permitted the enforcement of copyright by putting block on websites which are alleged to carry infringing content. The outcome flies in the face of new information from freshly-online Wikileaks cables showing  how the USTR worked to get the law drafted.

The Spanish approach is quite different from the French or the British. It does not target

individuals.  It targets websites, hosts and services, and puts in place a procedure whereby they can be blocked by Spanish Internet service providers. Under the new law,  an administrative body would have been given the power to assess whether a website or service was infringing  copyright.  The administrative body would also have had  the  power to order the provider of that service to cease existence, or force it  to remove the infringing material.  ISPs could  also be asked to restrict access to such services.  Websites and services which link to alleged infringing material, such as Bit Torrent trackers,  were a key target of the law.


The law is in fact based on the E-commerce directive, and the Spanish transposition of it, and as I understand it, does not actually amend copyright law at all.  It simply provides a procedure by which websites and ISPs can be asked to take action. According to Dr. Miquel Peguera Poch of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, it "crafts an adminsitrative procedure in the hope of doing something that courts  have been denying so far" .


It was one element of a wider law to tackle the economic recession, known as the Sustainable Economy Law (LES).


The vote was held at  a the meeting on Tuesday of the Spanish Parliament's finance and economics committee.  In what appears to have been a closely fought outcome,   it was rejected by a majority of two - 20 in favour, 18 against


The web blocking provision was the brainchild of the Spanish Minister of Culture, Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde,   who has been working for the past year in trying to get new copyright enforcement measures introduced. Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde  was supported by rights-holder s, including the former MEP Ignasi Guardans,, who is now director of the Instituto de Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA).


However, due to   opposition from the ISPs as well as highly vocal protests from civil liberties campaigners to any form of 3-strikes proposal, the Minister appears to have sought a different approach. That  opposition was equally vocal against her draft measures in the LES law. 


   A freshly -released cable from the Wikileaks Cablegate store reveals that she was offered help by the US authorities in drawing up her proposals - help which she appears to have accepted.  The cable sent back  a request back to Washington for  assistance from US government copyright experts. The USTR - United States Trade Representative - which lobbies around the world for American businesses - was on the list of the organisations who received the request. This revelation follows earlier cables which exposed how the Us authorities and the Motion Picture Association, were leaning on the Spanish government.

. The text of the cable from June 2009  establishes how  the US-Spanish collaboration began:

1....The Minister reacted enthusiastically to our

offer of expert engagement, saying it would be valuable for

GOS officials to hear what has worked and what has not worked

to reduce illicit downloads. Post requests that Washington

agencies seek to provide experts to discuss this issue with

GOS officials in visits or through video conferences.


3.(U) The Minister expressed interest in our offer (ref A) of

cooperation from USG experts. She was particularly

interested in advice on measures to reduce demand for

unauthorized downloads -- what had worked and what had not.


 The real question is -  why was this cable 'classified'? 


My thanks  to Dr. Miquel Peguera Poch of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya for his explanation of the Spanish law.


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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009) Spanish Parliament  throws out copyright sanctions 22 December 2010







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