A Spanish trial against a P2P software designer has begun in a Madrid mercantile court. Labels body and IFPI affiliate Promusicae and the four majors are demanding €13 million ($18 million) in compensation from Pablo Soto, a 29-year-old self-taught digital technology expert who is president of his own company, MP2P Technologies.

Promusicae and the majors say that some 25 million people have downloaded free music using the company's P2P software Blubster, Piolet, and the best known, Manolito P2P. The €13 million claim for damages is based on the assumption that each one of these people has downloaded at least one track without paying for it. The trial began May 19, but a ruling is not expected for several months.

The Spanish media, which is giving the case mass coverage at a time when the government is expected to make the first central administration move against illegal file-sharing, refer to this case as "the Spanish Pirate Bay", in reference to the recent Swedish court victory against BitTorrent tracker the Pirate Bay.

The labels have accused Soto under civil legislation, after several failed penal legislation cases against individual P2P file-sharers, but not companies such as Soto's that supplied the technology. The cases were thrown out because under Spanish jurisprudence established by a judge in a 2006 case, P2P file-sharing is not illegal if there is no proven profit motive.

In this case, Promusicae president Antonio Guisasola says the software created by Soto was created and commercialised "with the finality of exchanging musical files... to defraud intellectual property rights."

Guisasola adds "his activity is parasitical towards ours, and he is getting rich by doing it. He has created a tool for fraud, and for that he must be made responsible." The Spanish music industry says Soto's exchange programs were so successful that they rivalled international programs such as eMule, Kazaa, or Napster.

Soto, who was not questioned by the accusation on the first day of the trial, told reporters outside the court that his technology was "not designed to transmit any concrete activity, with or without copyright. I do not feel a scapegoat, but neither the hero of illegal downloads."

Soto added: "Technology is always neutral, and you cannot accuse the developer of a program because of the use made of it by its users." He claims he does not have the kind of money demanded by the labels, and points out that he uses public transport.

His three defence lawyers criticised the labels (Promusicae has 85 members, including the majors) for not making available a data bank with the names of the P2P file exchangers, and for not using available anti-piracy technology to protect their tracks.

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