The Spanish government has recently passed a law with provisions that some have compared to the Stop Online Piracy Act legislation that’s currently making its way through the House Judiciary Committee.
The Spanish law, as reported by the BBC, allows for the Spanish government to require Internet service providers to block sites that host infringing content. Unlike SOPA, however, the law deals with domestic sites and would set up a separate government agency to deal with anti-piracy cases.
The law, nicknamed the Sinde law after minister of culture Ángeles González-Sinde, drew criticism in Spain from technology companies and free speech advocates who said that it would have a chilling effect on innovation and expression. The outgoing Spanish government declined to put the law into effect, but the incoming center-right government implemented the law quickly after coming into power.
Spain has historically been viewed as a country with lenient online piracy laws, and has been highlighted in the past by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and is currently on a watch list of countries with intellectual property rules that are of concern to U.S. rights holders called the Special 301 report. Other countries on the list include Italy and Finland; China, Russia and Canada are on the “priority watch list.”
At least one Spanish-language newspaper, El Pais, reported that leaked cables from Wikileaks show that the U.S. ambassador to Spain, Alan Solomont, wrote to the outgoing Spanish president to urge passage of the Sinde law, the Guardian reported. According to a letter obtained by the newspaper, Solomont reportedly wrote that, “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.”
The State Department declined to comment on the reportedly leaked cables.
Spain has been debating the law for two years, and Internet freedom advocacy groups such as the Electronic Freedom Frontier have said that the United States used its Special 301 report to coerce other countries into enacting stricter penalties on intellectual property.
The House Judiciary Committee had two markup hearings on SOPA last month, getting through about a third of the 60 proposed amendments to the measure. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), who introduced the measure, has since introduced a manager’s amendment that attempts to address concerns critics have raised about the way broad interpretations of the original bill could affect domestic firms, but Internet engineers have said that SOPA’s traffic-blocking measures could have serious implications for cybersecurity and Internet infrastructure.
A Senate companion to the bill, the Protect IP Act, is expected to come up for a vote this month. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill last year, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) placed a hold on the legislation. He has said he will filibuster the measure and has worked with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on an alternative proposal that would not block Web sites.