A tough new anti-piracy measure that could force ISPs to block offending websites has been approved by the Spanish government.
Spain’s legislation creates a new government body – called the intellectual property commission – that has the authority to prevent access to entire websites if they are deemed to be in breach of copyright law.
The measure is similar to the divisive SOPA bill, which is currently under consideration in the US, though Spain’s Sinde Law does not give copyright holders the power to directly shut down websites as SOPA could.
Instead, rights holders will contact the intellectual property commission and point out websites alleged to be offering access to illicit entertainment downloads. The government body hopes to reach a decision within ten days of receiving a notice of copyright infringement, and then can pass the case onto a judge to rule whether a website should be shut down.
Like the proposed measures in the US, Sinde Law has proven to be divisive.
Spain’s deputy prime minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, was quoted by the BBC as saying the law is arranged "to safeguard intellectual property, boost our culture industries and protect the rights of owners, creators and others in the face of the lucrative plundering of illegal downloading sites".
But Peter Bradwell of the UK’s Open Rights Group said the law was “another example of bad copyright law eating away at the safeguards around freedom of expression."
"Our policy makers must not throw away the keys to the internet simply because copyright lobbyists are quite good at complaining," he added.
Research that was commissioned by Spanish rights holders concluded that piracy cost them £4.3 billion in the first half of 2010.
It claimed that 98 per cent of all music consumption in Spain was due to illicit downloads, with 61 per cent for games.