The Spanish government was subjected to ambassadorial pressure from the US to introduce a tough new anti-piracy law, according to diplomatic cables and leaked correspondence.
Alan Solomont, the US ambassador in Madrid, is believed to have threatened Spain’s president with “retaliation” unless action was taken to curb illicit online file sharing in the country.
In a letter dated December 12th, Solomont (pictured) reminded Spanish officials that the nation was already placed on the so-called ‘Special 301’ – a US list of countries that are deemed ineffective in protecting copyright holders from online piracy.
Spain was under risk of having its position "degraded" further, and could have joined a blacklist of "the worst violators of global intellectual property rights" if action wasn’t taken, the correspondence suggested.
Joining the blacklist could have, in turn, resulted in "retaliation actions", Solomont was quoted as saying, including the elimination of tariff agreements and a referral to the World Trade Organisation.
"The government of Spain made commitments to the rights owners and to the US government. Spain can not afford to see their credibility questioned on this issue," Solomont’s letter read, as published by Spanish paper El Pais.
"The government has unfortunately failed to finish the job for political reasons, to the detriment of the reputation and economy of Spain," he wrote.
Spain’s new government, which had taken power after Solomont’s letter was sent, implemented the SOPA-style anti-piracy law at one of its first meetings at the start of this year.
The 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 and is attracting significant opposition from various digital entertainment companies including Google, Twitter and Facebook.
In 2010, WikiLeaks cables showed that the US government had been pressuring Spain to implement tough new anti-piracy measures.
In one 2008 cable, US officials wrote:
"We propose to tell the new government that Spain will appear on the Watch List if it does not do three things by October 2008. First, issue a [Government of Spain] announcement stating that internet piracy is illegal, and that the copyright levy system does not compensate creators for copyrighted material acquired through peer-to-peer file sharing. Second, amend the 2006 'circular' that is widely interpreted in Spain as saying that peer-to-peer file sharing is legal. Third, announce that the GoS will adopt measures along the lines of the French and/or UK proposals aimed at curbing Internet piracy by the summer of 2009."