Spain: Anti-piracy process, new protocol will help protect €1.6B digital investment

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In March, Spain’s president and other government ministers announced an ambitious plan to increase audiovisual production in that country by 30%.  An investment of €1.603; consisting of tax incentives, support to Spanish content businesses, and regulatory reform, is detailed in the plan, titled “Spain, Audiovisual Hub of Europe.”

In addition to increasing Spain’s profile as international center for media production, additional priorities include expanding the country’s ecosystem of creative talent, and the embrace of technology to boost business competitiveness.

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Read the press release by Pedro Sánchez, President of Spain (Auto-translated from Spanish to English by Google Translate)

Read the plan, “España Hub Audiovisual de Europa” (pdf, en Español)

While digital media piracy places this investment at risk, Spain has also taken steps to put a methodical anti-piracy process in place, which is designed to ensure that ‘legality is restored’ for infringing sites; either because the site becomes blocked, or the infringing content is “withdrawn.”

Protocol to protect media investments

In April, Spanish ministers signed a voluntary code of conduct to reinforce the protection of intellectual property rights. “We are proud to place Spain at the head of the member states that, through a voluntary code of conduct, promote self-regulation between the culture sector and the telecommunications operators sector”, explained Rodríguez Uribes, Spain’s Minister of Culture and Sports.

A government press release claimed that “The protocol represents a milestone in self-regulation and progress both at European and international level, signed by 98% of the share of operators in Spain.”

Signers include Spain’s Coalition of Content Creators and Industries, its partners, DigitalES and the Internet access operators that make up said association, in addition to Euskatel and Eurona, according to the statement.

Regulatory framework

Spain has a process in place to identify cases of copyright infringement, followed by quick confirmation and action against offenders.  The law group Bird & Bird explains the procedure, which is regulated by Article 195 of the Spanish Copyright Act and by Royal Decree 1889/2011.

The process begins with a Preliminary Inquiry that establishes copyright ownership, the nature of infringement, and evidence that the party filing the application has approached the offender with a cease and desist request.

Once accepted, the process goes to an Initiation phase, at which things move quickly: the offender has 48 hours to comply.  If there is no compliance, the applicant has 48 hours to produce evidence to that effect, after which the Copyright Commission has three days to issue a decision – and the offender has 24 hours to comply.

If compliance is not voluntary, the process proceeds to the Enforcement stage, in which the regulator can request that parties providing financial or other services to the offender’ terminate those services within 72 hours.

Tracking success

According to a March 2021 report by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, Spain’s process has been a success: 208 out of nearly 400 applications (cases) resulted in government procedings.

Of those 208, 113 were closed because the content was taken down or the Web site was taken out of service voluntarily and 4 had expired.  79 of the remaining cases have gone to a final resolution: 34 of them have complied with the takedown request or are in the process of doing so.  In 34 other cases (of those 79),  suspension or blocking has been authorized.  Two have been submitted for sanctioning (a financial penalty).

The remaining nine have been submitted to the Spanish high court for resolution. The report goes on to detail the disposition of these nine cases.   It also identifies 127 blocked domains.

Why it matters

Spain’s process has proven that a combination of administrative processes, voluntary protocols, clear rules and time constraints and well defined penalties will bear results.

According to the aforementioned Ministry of Culture report, Spain’s process has been about 90% effective.





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