Spanish Pirate Site Owners To Get 6 Years Of Jail Time, But Users Off The Hook

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Spain has long had a difficult reputation as one of the heaviest users of file-sharing services, crippling music and entertainment sales in the country for years. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, some might say. But it’s affected relations with Hollywood for years and threatened to land it back on a U.S. government black list after the country dropped off last year. And facing trade sanctions from Washington is a bad place to be when your economy is in the toilet. So Friday, the Spanish government approved new laws, meaning the owners of websites that link to pirated content will be jailed for up to six years.

The law will only affect site owners making money from linking to copyrighted material provided illegally by third parties, whether it be “direct or indirect profit,” such as via advertising links. The measures won’t take effect until early next year. Spain last created an anti-piracy law in 2011, which helped it for a while — until the situation turned for the worse again. RojaDirecta.com, for instance, linked to unauthorized sports streams, was shut down by the U.S., but relaunched as RojaDirecta.me, based in Montenegro. Clever.

Previously, Spanish authorities could only punish the actual users — the ones who copied and distributed copyrighted material. It was unable to pursue the actual Pirate Bay-like sites. Now, under the new regulation, the actual users themselves will not face any punishment. Oddly, peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms and search engines are exempt from the rules and won’t face legal action. Interesting.

Alternative services to file sharing, such as Spotify, have launched in Spain, but have been most successful in Scandinavian countries.

It’s clear how much U.S. government thinking has influenced the new law. Spanish politicians backing the law citied a list of countries violating intellectual property which has matched those put together by US lobbyists on the matter.