According to Spanish Law, internet piracy is the same as torture
In the last few days, the rough draft of the new Spanish Criminal Code – prepared by the right-wing People’s Party, who currently have an absolute majority in the Congress – has been leaked. It contains many disturbing aspects, such as the criminalization of several forms of peaceful protesting – however, one of the most debated topics has been its treatment of internet piracy.
In short, the new Criminal Code will give Spain what is probably the most restrictive legal framework in any democracy, in terms of internet file-sharing. The two main articles regulating it – 270 and 271 – impose prison sentences up to four years just for sharing works protected as “intellectual property“. And in sentencing it’s irrelevant whether or not it was done for profit. In other words, uploading movies, TV shows, songs or books, even if it is for free and you are a fan, can get you four years in jail.
Should anybody “facilitate the access” to said works (even if that person did not share the work themselves), the sentence is up to three years. The scary bit here is that the Code doesn’t explain what “facilitate” means in this context. This makes it open to the interpretation by the judge. One example of such a grey-zone would be if Google was considered to be “facilitating” access to “intellectual property” just by making it searchable.
To sell or distribute “intellectual property” that circumvent DRM systems is punished with three years. Additionally the mere possession of such devices is also punished with the same amount of time. If anybody owns a single copy of these systems (or even a hacked game console), they can end up serving three years in jail. But the most severe punishment is for ‘link pages’ (such as The Pirate Bay). That is, pages that link to copyrighted material. In this case the prison sentence goes up to six years. This six year sentence can also be applied to mere uploaders that do not make profit, provided that the number of files shared was “important”. Which means that, if anybody has many “illegal” files on his computer and shares them, he will be threatened with six years in prison.
If all this seems staggering, it becomes even more shocking when we compare these sentences to those applied to other crimes in Spain:
- If one stabs anybody with cruelty (causing inhuman pain), the maximum sentence is five years.
- To induce or facilitate the prostitution of minors is only punished with five years.
- If a Spaniard totally destroys somebody’s property ending in total bankruptcy, the maximum sentence will be three years.
- In Spain, to discriminate against somebody in their workplace on the basis of ideology or race has a maximum sentence of two years.
When comparing the sentences for civil servants, authorities, or politicians, the treatment of internet piracy gets even more absurd:
- Six years is the maximum sentence a police officer will serve if he seriously tortures a detainee.
- A Judge who convicts unfairly in a criminal procedure goes to jail for four years.
- Influence peddling is punished with two years.
- A civil servant who falsifies the documentation of a public enterprise only gets a fine.
This being said, it seems absurd for the Spanish Government to declare that internet piracy is the same as torture. They also make it a worse crime than child prostitution, compared to some of the examples above. If we keep in mind that this very government, now acting harshly against piracy, some time ago pardoned some officers who had been convicted of torture. -We could conclude that, for the Spanish Government, internet piracy is worse than torture.
Featured image: CC BY-NC-SA by marsmet532
About Fabián Plaza Miranda
I'm a Spanish Lawyer, writer and Pirate. As a Lawyer, I'm specialized in International Law and Spanish Internet Law. I'm a fighter for human rights and believe in peaceful conflict resolution. I speak fluent Spanish, Catalan, English, French and a quite decent Italian. As a writer, I was finalist of Andromeda (2008) and Minotauro (2010) Awards, with works centered on political science-fiction. I've published several books, short stories and opinion pieces. As a Pirate, I'm a member of the Spanish Pirate Confederation. I normally work -and have been an electoral candidate- for the Galician Pirate Party (Galicia is the beautiful Celtic land in Northwestern Spain), but I've also been appointed as a candidate for the Catalan Pirate Party. In short, I'd love to see the pirate network expand more and more.