Catalan towns create piracy zones

Move decriminalizes illegal street sales

In a sign of Spain’s sometimes striking tolerance toward piracy, two regions in Catalonia have suggested penalty-free zones for bootleggers.

The mayors of seaside resorts El Vendrell and Calafell, south of Barcelona, say they simply don’t have the enforcement muscle to track down the hordes of street vendors.

So they’ve suggested the bootleggers — mostly illegal immigrants dealing in everything from fake Prada bags to pirated DVDs of Hollywood movies — move from central to outlying districts where they will be left alone by the municipal police.

“In the past three years, we’ve been overrun by illegal street vendors. I’m not sure if what we’re doing is legal, but it is commonsense,” said Calafell mayor Jordi Sanchez.

The initial reaction of the Catalan government was double-edged. Interior minister Joan Saura is quoted as saying that the measure was reasonable to avoid conflicts. But he said that the Catalan regional police force would continue to arrest bootleggers.

The initiative has stirred outrage in many other Catalan municipalities and the local press, much of which is owned by congloms with film and TV interests.

“The most reasonable thing would be to apply the law, instead of placing illegal street sales and legal commerce on an equal footing,” said an editorial in El Periodico, owned by Spain’s Zeta Group, which also has a film production arm.

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