Government knocked back in bid to pass "Sinde Law" in Congress

CiU severs negotiations with administration; draft moves to Senate, where Socialists may seek pacts with PNV and PP

R. M. / A. D. / R. J. C. Madrid 21 DIC 2010 - 21:38 CET

The so-called "Sinde Law" faltered in Congress on Tuesday with the CiU Catalan nationalists breaking negotiations with the government to push the proposal through. The law, which divests power to a yet-to-be formed Intellectual Property Commission which would request the courts shut down websites offering downloads of movies and TV programs, has riled internet and consumer protection groups and led on Monday to a concerted cyber-attack on political websites.

Explaining the CiU's backtracking, parliamentary spokesman Josep Sánchez i Llibre said the government "should negotiate with its natural partner," referring to the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which won concessions from the government when it backed the 2011 state budget but has refused to stand shoulder to shoulder with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's administration on this matter.

The CiU was also seeking concessions similar to those awarded to the PNV on a range of regional issues from transport to biotechnology and insurance.

Economy Minister Elena Salgado presented a tranquil front when negotiations broke down as she believes the over-arching Sustainable Economy Law, the download will be passed without amendments to the Sinde Law, which will pass before the Senate from January 18. Nonetheless, the legislation's naysayers cannot yet sing victory. The Socialists in the Senate can yet seek the support of the PNV, and in the case of rejection, court the backing of the PP.

The main opposition party has presented various amendments to the Sinde Law and while it broadly supports intellectual property rights, it rejects the government's project outright. "In practice it will be possible to shut down websites without judicial guarantees, which opens the door to political power being able to violate fundamental rights such as freedom of expression," said PP culture spokesmen in Congress, José María Lasalle.

His government counterpart, Marta Gastón, agreed that "only the judiciary can decide whether to close a website," before adding: "You cannot leave a sector that employs 800,000 people and represents four percent of GDP unprotected. If we protect bricks more than ideas, we are condemning our young people to continue making bricks," she concluded.

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