Spain proposes file-sharing sites shutdown – without a hearing

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reunionsinde[Spain] This week has been an exciting one here in Spain, to say the least. The rights of citizens online have been discussed all week in the press. Much as in other European countries, there has been a lot of discussion regarding illegal downloads, intellectual property rights and file sharing on P2P platforms. Our Spanish government, pressured by major music labels, prominent personalities in the entertainment business as well as the polemic of the General Society of Authors and Editors (SGAE) has been lobbying hard on what it sees as the “problem”.

But this week the Ministry of Culture set off a cultural and political bomb. It proposes to create a Commission of Intellectual Property enabling it to shut down any website for infringing copyright (such as sites with links to torrents) without judicial intervention.

And that’s what has everyone up in arms. The Commission would have the upper hand, with the help of SGAE.  Interestingly enough, there have already been cases in the past wherein previously shutdown websites have had the ban lifted after going through the judicial arm as they were deemed not illegal.

This is a two sided story, however. The best part in my opinion is the incredible, massive and organized reaction that exploded immediately after within the online community. A manifesto (hash tagged #manifiesto) called “In Defense of Fundamental Internet Rights” was put together by a number of well known Spanish online personalities. The Facebook group currently has 126,800 members (it grew by 2,000 as I wrote this post).

This week has been spectacular. Twitter was (and still is) on fire with information coming from all directions, inciting people to take action and keeping them informed with every bit of new information. It’s a loud and clear sign of how now, given our access to information, our ability to manifest, to share, to speak up, to join, it’s IMPOSSIBLE for government to get anything by without getting a slap in the face. And they sure as hell noticed. Shortly after news got out of the suggested commission and its unprecedented ability to make decisions without judiciary intervention, 12 members of our online community were invited to a meeting with government officials to “discuss” their plans and our objections. The Culture Minister, Angeles Gonzalez Sinde, arrived late and left within 30 minutes. Not what you would call a discussion, more like an appearance. Needless to say, that conversation went nowhere. There was no real room for discussion.

If that wasn’t enough of a sign as to how much of an online movement this has become and the attention it’s getting, in the afternoon, after the failed meeting, President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero came out in a press conference to appease tensions, stating that “no website will be shut down”, discrediting the Culture Minister.

But it got bigger. Press coverage has been impressive. Last night at 8pm, an unofficial protest—a walk—was called, in defense of our fundamental internet rights. As far as I know, people came out in protest in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Vigo, Bilbao, Palma, Malaga, Granada, La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela.  And I’m sure there are more. We mobilized for internet rights, without which we wouldn’t have been able to mobilize in the first place. Whatever comes out of the commotion now, whatever final decisions are drawn (unlikely to happen quickly), this spectacular reaction is something to talk about.

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  • Maite

    Thank You! It is so good people abroad know about what is happening here. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated issue, just think of France!

  • Gary Stewart

    Great work, Marina! I uploaded some pics and a video from the “concentración” last night in Madrid. Were you there? Anyway, thanks for letting the international community get a whiff of the crazy stuff that’s going on in Spain! If they could get a movement started in Iran via Twitter, then we can certainly keep the fire under ZP’s ass in Spain using a little bit of social media!

    The link to the pics from the demonstration are at:

    And the link to the video is at:

  • Julio Alonso

    Marina, thanks for the post. I would say that specifically the issues that really got the Spanish internet community on fire are:

    1. The proposed Commission would be able to decide by itself which sites to shut down on intellectual rights grounds. So it’s not limited to sites with links to bittorrent files and the like. It could be any web or blog for any intellectual property related accusation by a third party.

    2. The composition of the Commission, the procedure to take down sites and other details are not specified in the Law. It would be an administrative body subordinated to the Ministery and everyone supposes with heavy influence and presence from the SGAE and music and film industries. That is, the fox guarding the hen-house.

    3. The proposal also allows the afore mentioned Commission to obtain data from ISPs to identify sites, owners, IPs and so on.

    4. The proposal allows the government to order Spanish ISPs to block sites locate abroad.

  • Alex Barrera

    Can’t add anything more, awesome work Marina, as usual! And thanks for writing about something so important as to the freedom of speech on the Internet!

  • Fernando Almenara (Ferran)

    It’s just a starting point. But we need to stop this law now, we’ve to show that we can fight (with moderation) for our rights. Tnx Marina!

  • ebierzo

    An excellent summary of the situation that developed in Spain, where laws are made by groups Interesy against the fundamental rights of citizens. tnx.

  • http:///gosalbez,es Luis Gosalbez

    Thanks Marina for the coverage. We also arranged a walk in Valencia. But there’s still a lot to do. :)

  • Marina Zaliznyak

    Here’s an excellent link for those of you interested in reading the Manifest in a number of languages (see links towards the bottom):

  • Inma Martinez

    This is going to set things ablaze, but I cannot stay put: in Spain, to my disgrace because I hold a Spanish passport even though I have lived two thirds of my existence outside of the country, things always end up in tears and resolved in the most offhand manner.

    Whilst I commiserate and support the claims of the Spanish “internautas”, because it is antidemocratic and dictatorial to cancel out how the judicial system is meant to deal with the breaking of the law, it is also true and quite shameful that Spain alone is the number one country in the digital space where copyright infringement is rampant, accepted as normal and applied to all ages. I cringe when clients my own age, over 40, and with salaries that could pay for an entire DVD library, download illegal copies of films and they feel quite alright about it.

    In Spain, the reason why things have gotten to this state of revolution is precisely because EVERYONE has taken the absolute piss about illegal downloads, to the point that going to the video store and copying DVDs in one’s own home computer was the norm until the bandwidth got good enough to bit torrent any content.

    I am in support of finding a legal framework that will prosecute this people, and I totally agree that bypassing the judicial system is outrageous, but as a European and Spaniard I am ashamed and outraged at the state of complacency that the Internet community and everyone in general has always displayed where it comes to copyright infringement.

    Spain seems to always navigate between the extremes of life. Let’s hope that soon it learns to deal with stuff with logic, reason and willingness to stay within the law, rather than propagate the culture of “pais de mangis” (land of thieves).

    • vann

      Inma, you forget two things: one, Spanish consumers must pay a canon for every music CD/DVD, movie DVD, blank CD/DVD, pc, laptop, notebook, videocamera, photo camera, mp3, Ipod and any other audiovisual devices they buy, just in case they are thiefs, forgetting presumption of innocence.

      Two, the law allows to make a backup of every data in your PC. Downloading is illegal only when it’s for profit-making.

      So, Spanish governement treats their people as thiefs until they prove innocent, wants everybody to think that a legal action is illegal and now wants to control information in the net ignoring judges.

      P.S. Sorry for my English.

  • Alex Barrera

    Inma I fully agree with you, but this upright isn’t, paradoxically, against the regulation of illegal downloads, but against a fundamental attack on our constitutional rights.

    But yes, I indeed agree with you in that in Spain there is a BIG problem with what I like to call: “all free law”.

    The problem is that, we know, that politicians won’t be able to write a bill that fully grasps the extend to which Internet has changed things and to rule a fair law on this matter. :(

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  • Alexandra

    Inma, I agree with you on how bad the social acceptation of illegal downloads is in Spain. But I want to point to you that countries with a less bad situation are also pushing questionable laws.
    Then I also want to point to the obvious: you can buy cheaper in countries were people has higher incomes. And it’s not a matter of number of sales, translation or the likes. Check yourself prices of spanish movies in Spain (no costs for translation involved) and in other countries (with translations). Check as well CDs (no translation involved either and in many cases all printed in the same location and then shipped to several countries). There are easily differences of over 5€ each.
    While I don’t like how everyone feels entitled to illegal downloads. It’s impossible to not notice that the spanish industry is helping people to feel entitled to not buy them anything.
    And, in any case, this is not about torrent pages, they could also decide to block Youtube channels, blogger or anything else that could help people to promote illegal downloads. The SGAE has already a list of 200 (200!!!!) sites to block/disconnect if the law passes.

    • Phil

      Yes, costs are high in Spain, but there is a DVD rental service – like Netflix or Lovefilm – that people could be using as a legal alternative (
      But the truth is that in Spain people feel they have the right to get all content for free. I think that what has to happen is going after the individuals as well as the points of distribution so that it becomes socially unacceptable.
      I support a free internet, but not free access to copyrighted material. This harms the artist (not just the parent company). People who are against the shutting down of downloading seem to ignore the fact that they are in fact limiting their own options. Without the ability to make money from a movie small filmmakers just won’t make them, and we will be left with nothing but Disney (and other major studio) films to choose from!

      • Inma Martinez

        Phil, you are very sweet, citing Netflix or LoveFilm. Let me share something with you and everyone: in Spain, like Germany and other EU countries, Netflix inspired entrepreneurs to copy their business for their local market. In Spain, and as an investor I knew this directly, the founders of the Spanish “netflix” had to close the shop because the business model could not work out efficiently because a HUGE percentage of the userbase was keeping the DVDs and never returning them, so the costs of running the business made it impossible to sustain.

        When I wrote earlier on “cutural de manguis”, I knew where I was coming from.

      • Phil

        Thanks Inma, that is interesting. Are you saying is out of business? They look like they are still operating.

        So what you are saying is that the Spanish ARE thieves then as these types of rental companies seem to work in other countries in Europe… are you saying that the people are more honest there?

        I think we are saying the same things otherwise – something needs to be done to address the culture… and that is never easy.

      • Paul

        Inma/Phil: There is still a Netflix clone operating in Spain, But, whatever issues you’re referring to are not the reasons why such services have not flourished.

        I’ve never joined the site because the postal service in my area is atrocious. I don’t mind waiting for post, but I regularly find that my post is very late – sometimes several weeks or even months! It’s annoying just for bank statements or bills but utterly unacceptable for a monthly service that I’m paying for!

        I’ve said many times that I would love to pay for a monthly streaming service like Netflix or Lovefilm, but this is not an option that’s given to me due to the industry’s own restrictions. I buy DVDs on a regular basis, but never from Spain because they’re too expensive. I either import them via, or buy while visiting family back there. Of course, the problem with this is that the authorities never realise that the DVDs are sold to someone living in Spain – my purchases inflate the UK’s figures not Spain’s. I have several Spanish friends who also do this, since I showed them that importing DVDs and videogames from the UK can be 33 – 80% cheaper than Carrefour or El Corte Ingles!

        The industry has to do one of two things – simplify the stupid regional controls that prevent Lovefilm or Netflix from allowing me to pay for their services, or set up a streaming service that allows Spanish residents access. Not servicing this market while simultaneously complaining about piracy is disingenuous and fairly stupid.

        If they get rid of high prices, regional restrictions and lack of access (i.e. replacing physical items with HD streaming), then it will far easier to stop piracy. Like any black market, the key is to first remove the reasons why people use that market. Trying to ban something without offering a reasonable alternative is *always* doomed to failure. Every time.

      • Inma Martinez

        Phil, I wasn’t referring to Amora, which by the way seem to sustain their business via other revenues like satellite TV. Perhaps because the DVD rental is not really making it happen.
        Please so not rephrase me. I never said the all Spaniards ARE thieves, but the the mindset of the country tends to be rather lenient and accepting of thievery behaviour. Spain is quite a liberal country. “Vive y deja vivir”. This “live and let live” attitude, which in the 1980s became coined as “cultura de pasotas” (the don’t give a damn attitude) is what has gotten Spaniards into all kinds of trouble.
        Throwing rubbish to ground? No problem! Copying DVDs from the videostore in your home PC, what-ever! I have lived abroad for over 25 years, in the USA, Switzerland and Scandinavia, as well as 15 years in the UK. I can honestly confirm that in Sweden, where piracy is also rampant, it does not reach the levels it gets to in Spain. Obviously, when compares the dent in revenues that an 8m people country can cause compared to the damage that a population of 44m can achieve, the Spanish attitude does end up sticking like a sore thumb.

        I support the internautas when they highlight that the government has had moronic attitudes and broken the constitutional laws, but I also blame the majority of the e-population for taking the piss for so many years re: copyright infringement.

  • Inma Martinez

    The only way to create laws that will protect digital entrepreneurs and their web businesses whilst ensuring that the public does not infringe copyright laws is by proposing legal frameworks to the government.

    Yes, the government in this debate chose to go off on a tanget – tirar por la calle de enmedio, which in Spain is something that in addition to “cultura de manguis” is the second national trend. So great, thousands of entrepreneurs and digital users have pointed the finger and thrown themselves to the streets in protest. NOW WHAT? Who is proposing what to do and how to regulate copyright infringements within the law?

    The only way to create proper laws to regulate the digital landscape in Spain is to sit down and negotiate better alternatives. Where are those alternatives? Who is creating a lobby that will gather public support and demonstrate that there are better ways to regulate than the one proposed by the government which on top off it all, infringes our Laws?

  • jose del moral

    The most interesting thing of this spontaneous movement is actually that it was so spontaneous and organized in a matter of hours. This is really amazing and professional politicians are having a hard time to understand it.

    • joehas

      Jose del Moral has taken the words out of my mouth (hmm wonder if that too is illegal, should he pay me a fee? :-) )

      Spain is full of people who complain, but not full of people who do something about the issue in a smart, targeted way.

  • Alex Barrera

    Inma, you point something very interesting, and I wished our politicians would listen to us. Truth is that they call Internet entrepreneurs for a meeting and they abandon it 20min later… so until the government is willing to listen and sit down with the Spanish Internet and not with those whom political agendas don’t align with the national interest, but their own greedy one, there’s nothing to do :( I really wished the would listen though… But even under such threads from the citizens, the government hasn’t changed the text of the reform bill… so, I guess the ball is on their side right now, lets hope they do the right thing.

  • Anthony

    It was surprising after the new president of America visited Spain there was a rise of the Govt vs Piracy.

    The real pirates are points of distribution of material. Having been a published artist, to get your records/movies into stores there’s a HUGE mark-up as well as a HUGE portion asked for by the record company. We’re talking they want a 40% cut on the sales price.

    If indeed this was a lesson in “copyright”, then the artist would see more money. A typical record contract pays 20%, divided by say 4 members that’s 5% each. Then there’s royalty of who wrote the song [they get the lions share of the 20%]. 80% goes to the label.

    There’s cinemas where you can enter for 3 EUR, others put the prices at 8-10 EUR. Adding on excessive food and drink and you’re looking at 20 EUR per person. So, do we guess WHY piracy occurs?

    I agree with other postings about DVDs, music and Books. Here in Spain I get stuff shipped POST FRee from You can get things damn cheap.

    However the problem with movie and TV releases are also down to companies not having confidence in the artist/work. No wonder people are downloading the latest Spiderman movie as they have to wait 2-3 months for it to arrive in Spain. Release the movie worldwide if you think you have a decent product. Then CAP the prices of cinema/food and drinks.

    If people believe they’re getting value for money, treated fairly and equally and getting a decent product they’ll buy/view/enjoy.

    The problem is down to many different factors. Piracy has risen due to the inequality of price vs value! Now it’s got its handhold it’s harder to shake off.

    • Maite

      I just wish to point out that:
      1.- Downloading contents from the web is not illegal.
      2.- We pay a “canon” in every device we purchase that goes directly to the SGAE.
      (Funny the government is collecting a “tax” on behalf of a private association and based on a supposition)
      3.- NOT EVERYBODY is using the web to download contents from P2P webs. Yet we pay for the ones we do not download.
      4.- We are here to defend ourselves and our basic rights against polititians not-so-democratic as they should be.
      5.- What they get to do in Spain, they will end up doing it in the whole Europe, Zapatero will love to “make history”, not in vain the enthusiastic Organization Secretary of his Party (Leire Pajin-PSOE) already warned us about the “planetary event” that is going to take place during the next six months in the EC.

  • Luis Rivera


    Thanks for your post, which is very refreshing having seen how local traditional media has succumbed to political pressure. It is sad, but we definitely need TC and other international publications to keep covering this topic in order to get some real journalism and independence

  • http:/// Mayte Carreño

    Marina, I absolutely agree with you stressing the fantastic massive reaction from the online community against this stalinist law.

    Having said that, the big issue here is the reason why the do it: they dont understand the web 2.0.
    I guess none of the political parties do but it’s Zapatero government who is ruling our lives :-(

    As a consequence, this government is not working at all on helping the one and only one growing industry in the country: the online business (media&ecommerce).

    As you know, the ecommerce (b2c b2b) is growing at a 40%-50% still in Spain. Consequently, they should just work on helping out this sector in the worst economical crisis of the democracy (20% unemployment).

    They just don’t understand the web: they talk about freaks ;) They seem not to have a clue about how much small & medium online businesses are struggling to survive in a very difficult market: obviously, this atmosphere just doesn’t help to build up customers’ trust which is key for us!!

    Congrats for the article!!

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  • sam klume

    This is bad news

  • Neumaticos

    Congrats for the article !!!
    I totally agree, here in Spain, we talk about a year of deep black crisis. the quesiton is how new technologies can help resolving this ? Spain has all the advantages to join the leaders in E-commerce among Germany and the UK if the spanish government makes it as a priority and if companies want to trust in this.

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