Spain Attempts to Bolster Anti-Piracy Laws

Apr 18, 2013

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Last year officials in Spain were delighted to learn their country had been taken off the U.S. watch list of nations that do not do enough to fight online piracy. However, the elation might be short-lived. Spain has received word that they stand a real chance of being put back on the list when the revised copy becomes available. Being included means trade sanctions and other political muscle flexing designed to get those countries on the list to adopt more stringent anti-piracy laws. In order to avoid being indicted, the Spanish government has done just that. New anti-piracy legislation has been introduced and is in the first stage of public feedback. If the draft does indeed become law, a couple of significant changes will immediately be felt in Spain. First, prosecutors will be able to go after websites that provide links to pirates even if they are not hosting pirated content themselves. Currently only content hosters are subject to prosecution in Spain. The second important change allows the government to go after companies willing to advertise on the websites of copyright violators. Such advertisers would be subject to fines. It is likely some changes will be made to the draft legislation before it is finally approved and made law. The Spanish government wants desperately to remain off a watch list as it seeks to strengthen its economy and the online sector. If they make the list again, they'll be joining countries like Russia, Ukraine, China, and India. That's certainly not good company to be in, either politically or economically. Tech companies investing in Internet-based businesses will avoid blacklisted countries at all costs for fear of being caught up in the mess themselves.

Laws Largely Ineffective

Spain is to be commended for seeking to strengthen its anti-piracy laws. However, that commendation has nothing to do with the effectiveness of such laws. Wherever governments try to control online piracy through this type of legislation, the efforts fail miserably. Why? Because of the enforcement question. No amount of anti-piracy laws, regardless of their strength and toughness, will do any good to stop the practice unless they are enforced vociferously and without compromise. Pirates need to understand they will pay severely if they are caught; severely enough to cause them to question whether or not the risk is worth it. As for web hosting and colocation companies, they could help by getting tougher with pirates who attempt to use their services. As soon as a pirate is identified, he or she needs to be booted off and not allowed back on. Turning a blind eye just to sell a few more pounds of cloud or managed services only helps propagate the issue. Spanish Education and Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert told Reuters that the legislative action “should satisfy those who are worried about Spain's insufficient level of protection for intellectual property.” That may be so however the real question is whether passage of the legislation will have any real effect on the problem of online piracy.