Digital Legal Top Stories

Spanish Supreme Court to consider Sinde Law

By | Published on Monday 13 February 2012


New anti-piracy laws in Spain have hit a setback after the country’s Supreme Court last week agreed to hear an appeal by the Association Of Web Users who claim the so called Sinde Law is unconstitutional.

Spanish copyright laws have been criticised for over a decade after various courts there ruled that the file-sharing of unlicensed content was not illegal, hindering civil legal action even against those who provide software or web services that enable copyright infringement. Under pressure from other countries, and especially the US, Spanish politicians passed the Sinde Law, to crack down on online piracy.

Unlike in the UK and France, where new anti-piracy laws target those who actually access illegal content sources via three-strikes style systems, in Spain web-blocking was prioritised, making it easier for rights owners to force copyright infringing websites offline. Somewhat ironically, the measures in the Sinde Law, which was lobbied for by the US government, have parallels with the SOPA and PIPA proposals in America itself, which politicians there have now rejected (albeit probably only for the time being).

The Association Of Web Users says that the Sinde Law, which allows a government body to issue orders to internet service providers to block access to copyright infringing websites, is unconstitutional because only a court should be able to force a website offline.

Similar claims were successfully made against the Hadopi laws in France (in that case that only a court should be able to suspend an individual file-sharer’s internet connection), though the government there got around that constitutional challenge by adding a judicial stage to their new anti-piracy system, whereby a judge considers and approves any action orders. Presumably Spanish officials could add a similar extra stage to their web-blocking system if the country’s Supreme Court sides with the AOWU.

The Spanish Supreme Court last week confirmed it will consider the AOWU’s claim, while also issuing an injunction that basically stops the Spanish government from putting the anti-piracy system set out in the Sinde Law live pending their hearing, though ministers can appeal that element at any point before the end of the month.