Spain's government is reviewing hundreds of complaints under its new antipiracy law that went into effect this month, although the majority are part of a campaign that seeks to overwhelm and collapse the novel bureaucracy.
In a little more than a week since the antipiracy legislation known as the Sinde Law was enforced, the new government-named commission has received 251 complaints over copyright infringement, a culture minister spokeswoman said Friday. As they are only complaints, the government can't disclose further details.
Around 80 percent of those were filed by one musician for illegal distribution of the same song, part of an online civil disobedience campaign, centralized on the wertdeenlaces.net page, designed to expose the law's flaws.
As of Friday, 30 of the remaining complaints were likely filed by the music and movie industry, which had warned it had a list ready. Spanish public television said some of Spain's most visited sites to download and stream content, most of it without permission, are included.
It's unclear how the commission will deal with the onslaught of complaints meant to overwhelm the system. At least 200 sites were reported for the illegal use of "Nobody's death" (video above), a song written by Eme Navarro, a musician who openly opposes the Sinde Law and who personally delivered the list of sites.
"Yes, we've done it," reads the homepage of werdeenlaces.net. "We have preempted the enemy ;-). We will likely do a second round of complaints with the new disobeying sites. There are thousands of us who have decided to disobey the Sinde Law. We will be the front line against a law designed by and for an obsolete industry. Internet wants to be free, and it will be."
Anybody can download the song in the site and upload on to their own site using a provided embedded code. According to the site, 433 sites have so far "disobeyed" the law, and the song has been downloaded almost 23,000 times. It's not clear when the more than 230 new complaints against the sites would be lodged.
The Sinde Law
Spain's anti-piracy war will resonate globally. Around 45% of internet users in Spain regularly visit pages offering links to protected music and films material, compared to around 25% in the biggest European markets, according to market-research firm Nielsen.
The Supreme Court agreed in February to consider an appeal lodged by an Association of Web Users that argues that the recently approved codes of Sinde Law are unconstitutional. The appeal also requested an injunction of the codes, but the court has yet to rule on either.
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The new codes allow the government commission to determine if a webpage is used for illegal downloads. After a warning, web site owners would face being shut down with court supervision limited to freedom of expression, according to the law. The names of the five-member commission have not been made public yet.
Each complaint will be reviewed within the legally set timeframe of between 20 days and three months, although the commission will have the authority to block access to sites after 20 days, according to the Culture Ministry.
The Supreme Court case is expected to once and for all interpret legally how much power a government should have to block a site, even when its infringing on copyright legislation. The outcome in Spain will also need to be harmonized at the European level, most likely when it reaches the European Court of Justice.
The debate here is similar to those in the rest of Europe and the U.S. over governmental control of the internet, over freedom of expression, and freedom of press. Eventually, the effectiveness of the global anti-piracy war hinges on reaching a consensus.
Like in the US, Spain's struggle is still evolving and the outcome uncertain. For example, days before the Sinde Law went into effect, a Spanish court dismissed a case against the popular peer-to-peer movie download site Cinetube.es, a site indexing copyrighted content, because it hadn't been properly notified.
The new commission is designed to fill this hole, if the Supreme Court upholds it. Instead of a court, the new body will decide when copyright legislation is being violated in order to streamline the notification process. But civil liberty and freedom of speech advocates argue that their civil rights would be infringed without judicial oversight.
Another test to the new law is coming from SeriesYonkis.es, perhaps the most popular site in Spain indexing links to peer to peer downloads and streaming, all too often to cloud servers like Megaupload. In fact, it's mentioned in the indictment against Megaupload.
SeriesYonkis has created several mirror sites, including seriescoco.com and serieskiwi.com, adding more layers of bureaucracy in an effort to render the Sinde Law useless.
The next move is the government's when it moves to block a site. The law's effectiveness is far from certain though.