Congress-approved legislation toughens old provisions

A Spanish intellectual property law has finally banned unauthorized peer-to-peer file-sharing in Spain, making it a civil offense even to download content for personal use.

The legislation, approved by Congress on Thursday, toughens previous provisions. An early May circular from Spain’s fiscal general del estado, or chief prosecutor, allowed downloads for purely personal use.

Now Spaniards caught grabbing content from, say, eMule, will have to reimburse rights holders for losses — although such losses will be difficult for authorities to track.

But the government is going after Internet service providers; it’s a criminal offense for ISPs to facilitate unauthorized downloading.

The law also introduces a small tax to be levied on all blank media — from a blank CD to mobile phones and even a memory stick. Computer hard disks and ADSL lines have been left out of the legislation despite their widespread use for illegally copying music and films. The money collected will be paid back to the owner of the copyright.

Spain’s greater antipiracy clarity received a thumbs-up from the Motion Picture Assn.

“Compared to some European countries, Spain has some way to go in enforcement,” said Duncan Hudson, the MPA’s Brussels-based VP and director of operations for antipiracy, even though Spanish police closed 17 illegal Web sites in a nationwide raid April 8.

“But the new intellectual property law is a definite step forward, placing obligations for instance on ISPs to provide information. Hopefully, it will help us to get some injunctions,” he added.

Spain’s telco giant Telefonica reports 90% of usage on its broadband lines is Internet traffic, up from 15% five years ago. Of that 90%, a massive 71% is P2P traffic.

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