Digital Top Stories

Spanish government reintroduces Sinde Law proposals after parliamentary knock back

By | Published on Thursday 27 January 2011


The Spanish government has reintroduced proposals to make it easier for content owners to target copyright infringing websites, after proposed new copyright laws were knocked back by the country’s House Of Representatives just before Christmas.

As previously reported, the so called Sinde Law is Spain’s attempt to introduce new regulations that reduce levels of illegal file-sharing. Unlike the UK and France, where three-strike style systems that target individuals who file-share have been favoured by lawmakers, in Spain the preferred approach is a fast-track system through which content owners can force websites that exist primarily to assist others in their illegal file-sharing offline. Such a system was also included in the UK’s Digital Economy Act in addition to three-strikes, but with an extra clause that basically stopped it from being introduced in the short term.

The last time we reported on the Sinde Law in late December it looked like Spain’s parliament was about to green light the Spanish government’s plans, which were included in wider legislative proposals under the banner Sustainable Economy Law. However, amid high profile campaigning by some of those websites that fear they will be targeted under the proposed shutdown system, and other consumer groups who proposed the new rules, the House Of Representatives voted against the proposals.

But ministers remain committed to their anti-piracy system, and this week, with the support of three political parties, reintroduced the Sinde Law into the SEL proposals just before they head to the upper house of the country’s parliament, the Senate. With three parties involved in the slightly tweaked Sinde Law proposals it is thought they will now pass through the Senate without any problems. I’m not clear on whether the reworked Sinde Law will then have to go back to the House Of Representatives for a second vote.

The tweaks basically involve adding a judicial stage into the shut down process. It seems that first draft anti-piracy systems proposed by politicians after being lobbied by content owners invariably lack a judicial stage where a court of law considers any sanctions against copyright infringers – whether that be suspending the internet access of individual file-sharers, or ordering internet service providers to block access to an entire website.

Opponents usually argue, probably rightly, that puts too much power in the hands of government agencies and throws doubt on the independence of any appeals process. The French government had to add in a judicial stage into their Hadopi three-strike law, and that’s basically the compromise Spanish officials have included in their second draft proposals to try and reassure those who opposed the Sinde Law first time round that the new system won’t let copyright owners to go round shutting down websites on whim.

Of course, while the tweaks may be enough to placate political opponents in the Spanish parliament, opposition to any new rules to target file-sharing remains just as strong outside the legislative chamber.

As much previously reported, with the new laws the Spanish government is, in part, responding to pressure from foreign governments who reckon Spain has done far too little to protect intellectual property rights in the digital age. Indeed, it’s not uncommon under Spain’s existing copyright system for Spanish judges to rule that non-commercial file-sharing does not actually constitute infringement at all. Torrentfreak claims that American officials have been directly involved in drafting the Sinde Law proposals.