The Spanish government took a big step towards outlawing Web site links to unauthorized content when its council of ministers approved a proposed law that would give Madrid's high court the authority to close or block such links.

The Sustainable Economy Law (LES) will now go to parliament for debate, and analysts think it could be approved by the end of June. The LES is a wide-ranging anti-economic crisis law, but it includes one section that would introduce Spain's first ever anti-piracy legislation.

It would set up an Intellectual Property Commission (CPI) dependent on the culture ministry, composed of a handful of Internet experts. They would have the power to denounce Web sites that offer links to unauthorized content for downloading.

Such links and peer-to-peer file sharing in general are currently not considered illegal in Spain if no profit motive can be proved. A March 16 judgement underlined the courts' stance on the issue.

The news of the approval sparked an immediate wave of protest on the Internet. Several Web sites that offer unauthorized links, such as Cinetube.es, Series Yonkis.com and Divxonline.com shut themselves down until midnight, showing only the message "For freedom in the Web. No to the closure of Web [sites]," with a black background.

Many other blogs, Web sites, and specialized media again put up a manifesto written on December 2 entitled "In defense of the fundamental rights in Internet."

Julio Alonso, founder of Weblogs, one of the manifesto's authors, announced through Twitter "I shall not vote for any party that approves the 'Sinde law' in Congress."

This anti-piracy legislation has become known as the 'Sinde Law', after the culture minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, whose socialist party forms the government pressing through the law.

Under the proposed law, if the CPI considers that a Web site offers unauthorized links, the high court would have a maximum of four days to rule on its full or partial closure. The judicial intervention would be limited to deciding if the closure of a Web site would violate fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression.