Spanish Gov't Simply Reinstates US-Driven Copyright Bill, Despite It Being Voted Down

from the funny-how-that-works dept

We've talked at length about the copyright situation in Spain, where the law has a rather reasonable take on things: noting that personal, non-commercial copying is not particularly harmful and that it makes no sense to impose secondary liability on software companies that make file sharing tools/search engines with legitimate uses. This is actually a pretty reasonable stance, but of course Hollywood freaked out and demanded changes -- and with the help of US diplomatic pressure demanding that Spain rewrite its copyright laws to make Hollywood happy -- those new laws were introduced (even as economists noted that it would be "useless and ineffective."

However, after one of the State Department cable leaks revealed how much US pressure was behind this law, even Spanish politicians started running for cover, and rejected the part of a larger bill that included these copyright changes. Of course, we immediately heard rumors that it would be coming back pretty quickly, and indeed, it's only been a few weeks, and it appears that Spanish politicians just did an end-run around the legislature's rejection of the amendment. Rather than drop the matter, the Spanish Senate just "revised" the legislation to include the amendment.

Perhaps someone familiar with Spanish law (and politics) can chime in to explain how this works. In the US, even if something like that happened it would have to go back to the legislature to approve down the road. Is that not the case in Spain? Either way, apparently a lot of people are not at all happy with this, and are protesting the efforts. In the meantime, of course, all this is doing is teaching yet another generation that copyright laws are simply tools of big companies and powerful countries to push around others. It certainly doesn't create any greater respect for the law.
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Filed Under: copyright, spain, wikileaks

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  1. icon
    Miquel Peguera (profile), 28 Jan 2011 @ 12:19pm

    How the Spanish legislature works

    >Perhaps someone familiar with Spanish law (and politics)
    >can chime in to explain how this works. In the US, even >if something like that happened it would have to go back >to the legislature to approve down the road. Is that not >the case in Spain?

    Hi there,

    I know it sounds funny. I’ll try to explain how it works in essence, and also say something about the politics in this case.

    As many other countries, Spain’s legislature has two chambers, namely, the House of Representatives (“Congreso de los Diputados”), and the Senate. All bills must be introduced in the House. Once a bill is introduced--and the House accepts to deal with it--there’s a period for the parliamentary groups in the House to propose changes to the bill’s text. These proposed changes are called “amendments”. There are different types of amendments. They normally consist of adding new provisions, deleting parts of the bill, or rewording particular sections. The House debates the proposed changes and votes on the bill, either as a whole or on a section-by-section basis. If the bill is rejected that’s the end of the story and those who introduced it must re-initiate all the process from the start. If the bill is passed, either as it was introduced or with some changes owing to the amendments proposed, the approved text is sent to the Senate. The Senate then debates the text sent from the House, and may also introduce amendments to it. If the Senate does make changes, then the bill goes back to the House, where those changes may be accepted or rejected before the bill is finally enacted into law.

    In the present case, the Government introduced a lengthy bill in the House, called the Sustainable Economy Bill (SEB), which addresses with a variety of issues. The bill contained a particular section dealing with online copyright infringement, known as “Sinde Act”, after the name of the Minister of Culture, who promoted that provision. On December 21, the House voted on the SEB on a section-by-section basis, and the section dealing with copyright was rejected and so was left out of the final text. That text was then sent to the Senate. Now the plan is that a modified version of that provision will be introduced in the Senate as an amendment to the text. The Senate will vote on the bill next February 9. If that amendment is in fact accepted by the Senate, the bill will go back to the House, which may or may not ratify that change.

    Now, how all this can make sense? That’s politics, of course. In the House, the Sinde Act was supported only by the Socialist Party (the Government’s party). All other parties refused to endorse it for different reasons. There were negotiations, some of them involving offers regarding completely unrelated matters. The socialists however weren’t able to gather more support and thus this section didn’t pass. This was a major blow to the Government.

    After that, the Socialist Party tried again to convince some other groups offering to modify the original version of the bill. They eventually succeeded: the Socialist Party and the Popular Party (the two main parties) reached an agreement to support a new version which includes the changes required by the Popular Party. The Catalan nationalistic party Convergència i Unió is also supporting the new wording. The core issues of the bill remain unaltered, the changes affecting only minor points of the bill. Now this new wording will be introduced in the Senate as an amendment. Since it has the support of the two main parties, it will be approved in all likelihood both in the Senate, and then again when it goes back to the House.

    For more information on the original version of the Sinde Act:

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