Spain: Increasing pressure on criminal courts against IP rights infringements

by DLA Piper
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[co-author: Ceyhun Pehlivan]

The Criminal Court no. 4 of Castellón (Spain) has recently sentenced a peer-to-peer file sharing webmaster to 18 month imprisonment for a continued offence against IP rights. In addition, the Court has also banned him from exercising any activity related with websites for 3 years. He shall also pay a fine of €21,000.

The Court ruled that the webmaster is liable for copyright infringement by having indexed links to P2P files, allowing the users to download copyright-protected content without authorization of the lawful holders and for his financial gain.

In a different case at the so-called “Audiencia Nacional” -a Special Court in Spain-, where the trial has not taken place yet, the Public Prosecutor is asking for 8-year imprisonment for the three webmasters which allegedly offered illegal downloads of newspapers, journals and books. The reason for seeking such severe imprisonment punishment is that the Prosecutor considers they had not only committed an offence against IP rights but also should be considered as a criminal organization, established ad hoc to commit crimes.

According to the media, the defendants would allegedly had made advertising revenues of approximately €200,000 from June 2009 to May 2012. During such period, the defendants would have allegedly uploaded up to 17,000 copies of publications from several countries, including Spain, Germany, UK or France.

These actions clearly show the recent rise of pressure in Spain against online IP rights infringers. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the Spanish Criminal Code is currently under review by the Spanish Parliament. One of the most relevant proposal would be punishing with up to 6 years imprisonment for linking to contents protected by copyright.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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