If you read my column from last week, you may have gotten the idea that Spain has, until recently, been a piracy hotbed. For many years the main problem was with physical product. But not long ago the record industry finally worked up the balls to go after Blubster (see last week’s story).
In one of my blog posts last week I gave some analysis of the Virgin/UMG (insert link) subscription service that was recently announced. I expressed concern about ISP’s policing users with an eye to the possible disconnection of service for unrepentant file sharers—a strategy that was suggested in last week’s Digital Britain report. I just didn’t think that the EU could go along with the denial of Internet service to its citizens, as it is considered to be a basic right, I am told.
Sure enough the Spain’s cultural industry has come to its senses and said that it will not endorse any such measures. The Coalition of Creators and Content Industries has reversed its position and decided to follow indications that the government will refuse to implement any kind of “three-strikes” strategy. Instead they intend to go after the more than 200 bit torrent sites that have sprung up in Spain, as well as any other web sites that they consider to be fostering piracy, including p2p software developers. Bit torrent has definitely taken over in Spain as the preferred method of getting the latest American movie releases and TV shows.
Coalition president, Aldo Olcese acknowledged that users are “our current and future clientele,” and that punitive measures were out of the question. “We have no desire to criminalize Internet users who download illegally,” he said. But Olcese still thinks a reduction in Internet access speed is feasible against offenders, but even that looks less and less likely.
Spanish citizens and their government are particularly sensitive about their online privacy. Let’s not forget that up until just a few years ago they lived under a dictatorship. So their concerns are well founded. .
So it seems as though there will finally be an official government effort to fight piracy. This brings me back to the Blubster case. I mentioned last week that some of my lawyer friends in Spain think that Blubster has protection under the law. That might have been the case until this lawsuit was filed. My argument was that Blubster would be found guilty because of political pressure and the precedent set by the Grokster case.
Grokster is the model that courts around the world will adopt when they decide to get serious about online piracy. And this is exactly what the Carter Report should have recommended.
Having been at the center of Grokster for so long, I was always convinced of one thing: if we won at the Supreme Court we would eventually lose in Congress. There was absolutely no way that the government was going to allow mass copyright infringement to continue.
So the US Supreme Court saved the taxpayers (and the recording industry) a lot of money and came up with a very clever solution—one that absolutely no one saw coming—that will be a global template going forward. The Spanish seem to have warmed up to Grokster and are following the lead. And for this reason, Blubster has un gran problema.