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Spanish government to come down harder on those benefiting from online piracy.

The latest move in the Spanish legal fightback against online piracy and copyright infringement sees an amendment to the Spanish penal code that could result in the owners of websites featuring pirated content jailed for up to six years.

Thought to originate in the Spanish government’s desire to steer clear of the US government’s own copyright infringement blacklist, the move is likely to generate protest and debate in Spain, where questions of copyright legislation and online freedoms are hotly contested.

Indeed, the first significant crackdown on Spanish internet piracy, 2012′s famous ‘Sinde Law,’ drew stinging criticism in Spain from activists, bloggers, journalists and even representatives of the Spanish film industry, such as Alex de la Iglesia, while protests were held outside the Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent to the Oscars): under the Sinde Law (named after Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, the former Spanish Culture Minister) rights holders can report websites hosting infringing content to a specially created government commission.

However, with the ‘Sinde Law’ – credited by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon as having struck “a real balance between protecting copyright and new technologies” – punishment was meted out only to those copying and distributing digital contraband, while this latest legislation is aimed at also clipping those third parties making money from such material indirectly, such as through linking to other sites featuring pirated video and providing advertising.

Expect more debate both inside and outside of Spain concerning this important issue.

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