Another Court Rules Personal File Sharing Legal in Spain

MADRID – Once again, a Spanish court has ruled that personal, not-for-profit file sharing is legal.

The verdict is surely dismaying for music, film and other entertainment companies, while Internet user groups in Spain see it as another victory and have made it clear they will not go gently away.

TechDirt reports the court determined that peer-to-peer file sharing for no money is allowed and also said sites that link to content but do not host it, such as search engines and trackers, are not in violation of copyright laws. So, even though the accused in the case had downloaded and shared more than 3,000 movies, he did not violate copyrights because the material was all for personal use only.

In related news, more than 300 members of Spain’s Internet Users Association recently gathered outside the culture ministry office in Madrid to protest legislation designed to stop illegal file-sharing.

According to news reports, the protestors called for “civil rights, universality and neutrality in Internet.”

In a statement, the Users Association said the government plans "to convert public funds into a free bar accessible to just a few, to finance projects without economic viability, or installing privileges such as the ‘digital canon,’ is not just lacking in solidarity, but is profoundly immoral."

The group also demands an end to Spain's “copyright tax” (digital canon) on devices that copy music or movies, and wants increased broadband access for all and P2P file-sharing to remain legal without issue.
The user group called Spain's new anti-file-sharing culture minister, Angeles González-Sinde, “legally incapacitated” because of her prior association with the film business heading up the Spanish Cinema Academy.

The protests come with the wake of Spanish record label association Promiscuae, EMI, Sony, Vivendi Universal and Warner Music filing a lawsuit against P2P software developer Pablo Soto for “unfair competition,” demanding $19.9 million in damages, claiming users of his software infringed on copyrighted material.

According to International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, Spain is a hotbed of illegal downloading, reports PaidContent.

A recent IFPI study indicates 81 percent of Spanish Web users under age 24 download copyrighted content through P2P networks. It's been estimated that 44 to 79 percent of global Internet traffic is in file-sharing, while the the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property has stated, "The scale of the problem is huge and growing.”

Rights holder's orgs blame legal free services such as Skype and Google as part of that problem.

"The vast availability of this kind of free content changes existing perceptions of ownership and utility," said an SABIP summary paper based on past collected data.