Does Spain need to change its copyright law?

(via TechDirt) The New York Times has published an interesting article about how copyright owners are urging for a change in Spanish copyright law (as an aside, I should find another word to describe articles linked in this blog, “interesting” is seriously over-used). Allegedly, Spain is the pirate capital of Europe, in 2008 illegal movie downloads reached 350 million copies, in the same year 1.2 billion tracks were downloaded using P2P services. According to the IFPI, the Spanish music market has shrunk to a third of what it was in 2001. These figures have prompted repeated threats from Hollywood that it will quite simply abandon the market because it is not worth it.

The Spanish government has responded passing a new law that will allow it to close down copyright infringing sites in an easier manner. Last year, there were suggestions that another piece of legislation would create a three-strikes regime similar to HADOPI and the Digital Economy Act, this was the Sustainable Economy Law (Ley de Economía Sostenible), but the proposed final text does not include this measure.

The question is, does Spain require new laws to begin with, or is the problem deeper? As a signatory to TRIPS, the Berne Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and as a member of the EU, one could argue that Spain should already have a legal framework capable of dealing with piracy, but this is not the case. The problem does not seem to be the law, but the lack of willingness to apply it. Repeatedly, Spanish judges have been producing rulings in favour of file-sharing sites and against copyright owners.

Time and time again, anglophone media sources comment that the current situation is caused by the Spanish culture. There is a certain tone of derision in some of the coverage, almost as if the press expects nothing else from those Mediterranean countries that lack respect for proper fiscal policies, queuing, towel management and intellectual property. The New York Times article comments that this is not such a far-fetched theory because piracy is seen as freedom to consume, which is a cultural backlash from the Franco years. There may be something to this theory. Even judges seem reluctant to interpret the law in favour of the copyright industries.

The culture of sharing seems to be entrenched in the Spanish psyche. An anti-piracy campaign with the logo reading “Against Piracy: Defend Your Culture” was immediately spoofed to produce pro-sharing slogans. “Share Your Files: Defend Your Culture”, and other similar ones (pictured above).

This is a complicated issue. If piracy is culturally entrenched, then changing the law might do little, particularly if judges continue to rebel against pro-copyright issues and refuse to apply the law in their favour.

And to conclude, here is a funny story (or depressing, if you are in in copyright maximalist camp). In 2006, SGAE , the largest collecting agency in Spain, predicted that internet piracy would be vanquished in 5 years time. They better hurry!

Comments 1

  1. As a music publisher, I concur that they need to stiffen up their copyright protection. Piracy is stealing millions of dollars from the music industry, gaming industry, and movie industry. People think they are not hurting anyone because the most visible people in Hollywood are already rich. The truth is they are killing jobs for people who work cameras, catering, engineering, shipping departments, etc.

    If piracy goes unchecked, the future of art will suffer.

    Scott Meath

    Royalty Free Music Library

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