In the last few days, the rough draft of the new Spanish Criminal Code – prepared by the right-wing “PP” Partido Popular, who currently have an absolute majority in the Congress – has been leaked. It contains many disturbing aspects, such as the criminalisation of several forms of peaceful protesting – however, one of the most debated topics has been its treatment of internet piracy.
In short, the new Criminal Code will give Spain what is probably the most restrictive legal framework in any democracy, in terms of internet file-sharing. The two main articles regulating it – articles 270 and 271– impose prison sentences up to four years just for sharing works protected as “intellectual property”. And in sentencing it’s irrelevant whether or not it was done for profit. In other words, uploading movies, TV shows, songs or books, even if it is for free and you are a fan, can get you four years in jail.
Should anybody “facilitate the access” to said works (even if that person did not share the work themselves), the sentence is up to three years. The scary bit here is that the Code doesn’t explain what “facilitate” means in this context. This makes it open to the interpretation by the judge who in Spanish law is almost “God like”. One example of such a grey-zone would be if Google was considered to be “facilitating” access to “intellectual property” just by making it searchable.
To sell or distribute “intellectual property” that circumvent DRM systems is punished with three years. Additionally the mere possession of such devices is also punished with the same amount of prison. If anybody owns a single copy of these systems (or even a hacked game console), they can end up serving three years in jail. But the most severe punishment is for ‘link pages’. That is, pages that link to copyrighted material. In this case the prison sentence goes up to six years. This six year prison sentence can also be applied to mere uploaders that do not make profit, provided that the number of files shared was “important”. Which means that, if anybody has many “illegal” files on his computer and shares them, he will be threatened with six years in prison.
If all this seems staggering, it becomes even more shocking when we compare these sentences to those applied to other crimes in Spain:
- If one stabs anybody with cruelty (causing inhuman pain), the maximum sentence is five years.
- To induce or facilitate the prostitution of minors is only punished with five years.
- If a Spaniard totally destroys a persons property ending in total bankruptcy, the maximum sentence will be three years.
When comparing the sentences for civil servants, authorities, or politicians, the treatment of internet piracy gets even more absurd:
- Six years is the maximum sentence a police officer will serve if he tortures a prisoner.
- A Judge who convicts a person unfairly in a criminal trial can go to jail for four years.
- Influence peddling which is rife is punished with two years prison.
This being said, it seems absurd for the Spanish Government to declare that internet piracy is the same as torture. They also make it a worse crime than child prostitution, compared to some of the examples above. If we keep in mind that this very government, now acting harshly against piracy, some time ago pardoned some officers who had been convicted of torture. – We could conclude that, for the Spanish Government, internet piracy is worse than torture.
All that said after what I have seen published about me it may well be time to go this far and stop all illegal internet activity with such harsh laws.
At the same time they should stop electing members of their Constitutional Court based on the majority they hold in the Parliament i.e. Political appointments. The same can be said for the “Consejo de Poder Judicial” (also politically appointed) the authority that has overall control of their “God like” Judges. Maybe its time to allow Judicial Independence to take over?
Maybe they should imprison all corrupt politicians whilst they are at it or would that be a step too far? I have just realised why their judiciary cant be independent, if it was the corruption that is so rife in Spain could be bought to account!!!!
8th June 2013 Marc Ros Rodriguez – Author