DIGITAL COPYRIGHT

US takes Spain off piracy blacklist

Washington applauds government’s passing of “Sinde-Wert” anti-download law

An internet user looks at webpages offering file downloads. / CLAUDIO ÁLVAREZ (EL PAÍS)

The United States government has removed Spain from its internet piracy watch list following its “recent efforts regarding the protection of copyright,” according to a report published on Monday by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the government agency responsible for creating and advising the president on trade policy. In particular it applauded Spain’s “passing of the so-called ‘Sinde’ law, in order to combat piracy of authors’ rights via the internet.”

Washington first included Spain on the 2008 edition of the watch list, which is formally known as the Special 301 Report, and identifies deficiencies in the copyright legislation of foreign countries as well as proposing possible trade sanctions.

“The United States will keep an eye on the application of these measures and their general efficiency in the treatment of piracy on the internet,” says the report in the section relating to Spain.

“The United States continues to have serious concerns regarding the criminal non-fulfillment of copyright laws, in particular because of a statement circulated in 2006 by the Attorney General’s Office that seemed to decriminalize P2P \[peer-to peer\] file sharing, and urges Spain to take measures to solve this serious problem.”

The newly dubbed “Sinde-Wert” law — in reference to the minister of culture, José Ignacio Wert, and his predecessor, Ángeles González-Sinde — was approved by Congress with the support of the Socialist Party, the Popular Party and the CiU Catalan nationalist bloc during the previous Socialist administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

However, at the time the then-government refused to put into practice the regulation that allowed the closure of websites offering copyrighted content without authorization. The new Popular Party government finally did this in December via a royal decree that came into force on March 1.

By the beginning of April the Copyright Commission had already received 300 requests for the closure of various websites that supposedly violated copyright.

“One of the government’s first legislative acts since taking power has been setting the administrative, as well as the civil and criminal, processes in motion through the royal decree that regulates the Copyright Commission,” said the Spanish secretary of state for culture in a statement.

He added that Spain’s elimination from the list was “very positive and responds to the clear commitment of the government to guarantee the protection of copyright in our country and the new business models on the internet.”

The White House has harshly criticized the previous Spanish government in the report over the last three years for its apparent passivity in the fight against internet piracy. In the 2008 report, in which Spain was included on the list for the first time, the criticism was resounding: “The United States is concerned about the insufficient effort to confront the growing problem of internet piracy by the government of Spain, a country that the United States copyright sector defines as one of the worst in Europe. There is also a generalized and erroneous perception in Spain that using P2P networks to share files is legal.”

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