US threatened Spain over web censorship laws

As hard as it's trying, the US isn't content with censoring and destroying its own web. A new report from Ars Technica takes a look at the efforts of the American government to pressure Spain into adopting controversial internet censorship laws, going so far as to threaten omnious 'retalliation actions' if such laws didn't take effect.

The first whisperings of such efforts appeared way back in 2009, courtesy of WikiLeaks, although they weren't nearly as widely reported as say, Qaddafi's buxom Swedish assassin-nurses. Way back then, a Diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Madrid said that:

We propose to tell the new government that Spain will appear on the Watch List if it does not do three things by October 2008. First, issue a [Government of Spain] announcement stating that Internet piracy is illegal, and that the copyright levy system does not compensate creators for copyrighted material acquired through peer-to-peer file sharing. Second, amend the 2006 “circular” that is widely interpreted in Spain as saying that peer-to-peer file sharing is legal. Third, announce that the GoS [Government of Spain] will adopt measures along the lines of the French and/or UK proposals aimed at curbing Internet piracy by the summer of 2009.

An article from Spanish newspaper El Pais offers up some new revelations, courtesy of a letter from US ambassador Alan Solomont to then-Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in the wake of Zapatero's decision not to approve the censorship laws. Using Bing Translator, we took a look at the original article ourselves.

Despite the polite language used, Solomont's letter is filled with not-so-veiled threats and punishment for his 'disobedience,' going so far as threatening to make Spain part of the 'Monitoring Group priority' (which, by the way, it didn't), a list of the 'worst violators of intellectual property rights.' Being part of such a list can carry with it severe trade sanctions.

Acts like SOPA are nothing new in the US, but some might (not) be surprised to find that the US has been trying to strong-arm other nations into adopting similar laws. It's bad enough that any nation tries to censor its own web, but must they really bring down the rest of the world with them? Surely they can take care of that themselves.

Solomont doesn't seem to think so, however. His letter goes on to point out that adopting SOPA-like laws is in Spain's best interest, as “Spain cannot afford to see it's credibility on this issue questioned, [because] rampant internet piracy harms the economy of Spain and its cultural industries.” It has nothing to do, of course, with the fact that the victims of piracy tend to be US based corporations.

Before trying to force other nations into adopting Orwellian censorship policies, the US needs to rethink its own legislation. Censorship is not the answer here. As previous Neowin editorials have suggested, the answer is more likely to lie in the hands of the corporations and content creators, starting with them adopting more modern business models. Right now it looks like we actually are heading for PCMag's chilling vision of the internet becoming a thousand walled gardens.

Disagree? Need to let off some pressure? Head over to the Neowin forums to share your thoughts on SOPA and internet censorship.
 

Image courtesy of The Guardian

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They did the same thing to NZ told our Govt if you want a free trade agreement then you need to enact these laws albeit out govt caved in like the bunch of twats that they are

You what...this story was posted in BPN over 4 days ago. How about you guys at least give credit to the user that originally posted the damn story instead of taking credit yourself.

The news posters around here lately are really going down hill....this is really taking "unprofessional journalism" to a new level.

The first step is to reject any statement that refers to illegal software copying as "piracy".

Piracy is a type of robbery. Robberies deprive owners of goods under threat of physical harm (use of force).

In the case of illegal software copying, there is no threat of force and the owner is not deprived of their goods.

Anyone using the term "piracy" to describe this is a propagandist and should be ignored.

I'm a spaniard, born and living in switzerland (nothing like not being made a citizen on birth), and considering that sort of legislation, and the sort of politicians that get elected I'm seriously considering asking for citizenship in switzerland, even though it's quite costly (and I will have to complete exams which most swiss citizens could not ace).

Im not sure how this is going to end. But for sure it will not end good. Big companies with big numbers elect their presidents, they pay electors to elect their president. This companies (most of them from hollywood) are trying to control, not only what they want to sell but your freedom. Because this is not going to end with just censorship but buying and selling your information that you show on the web. Obama was elected, and was a change?. Of course NOT. It was an illution that this companies make you believe that you are choosing a change which never happend. Only a strong goverment with ball will face this threat, and I see no balls in the US and LESS in spain.

Every day the US disappoints me more and more. This obviously isn't about piracy but censorship. Soon we will be living in a modern Soviet Union. We already have UAVs spying on citizens, and soon censored internet if these laws get passed. What's next, martial law?

Its not a question of controlling piracy, its about controlling the Intnernet.
The US government want to take complete control of the Internet.

I think everyone just enjoys complaining because it is the USA. Grow up people. Pirating is illegal. Yes I do it as well although I am fully aware of its illegal nature and as such will not be crying like a baby when this opportunity is taken away. In these efforts the US is right in my humble and "personal" opinion

Erikas said,
I think everyone just enjoys complaining because it is the USA. Grow up people. Pirating is illegal. Yes I do it as well although I am fully aware of its illegal nature and as such will not be crying like a baby when this opportunity is taken away. In these efforts the US is right in my humble and "personal" opinion

While I agree to a point (copyright has been extended way beyond its original purpose or any reasonable term), this isn't about taking down pirate websites. It's about having no judicial oversight in the process, which means it WILL be abused, just like DMCA takedowns notices have been (just look at what happened with Megaupload and the Mega Song), and it's also about legitimizing censorship to serve corporate interests.

Erikas said,
I think everyone just enjoys complaining because it is the USA. Grow up people. Pirating is illegal. Yes I do it as well although I am fully aware of its illegal nature and as such will not be crying like a baby when this opportunity is taken away. In these efforts the US is right in my humble and "personal" opinion

do you actually buy their excuse that this is to combat piracy? piracy is just the scapegoat they're using to get more arbitrary control and stomp out decentralized knowledge and power. it's the internet equivalent of "think of the children".

yet another thing the usa is trying to stick their noses where it doesnt belong type issue, seriously bugger off, they will end up cencoring **** and people will find away around it. i for one dont want to be told what i can and cant search for on the internet, would be like a library telling me i cant look up a certain type of book

I don't understand why everyone wants to protect "the rights" of software pirates so vehemently. YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEFEND THESE PEOPLE! Piracy is clearly wrong and I have a feeling that after they do crack down on it, once the pirates finish their little e-tantrum over not getting things for free any more, the internet will be a better place. Games + software will probably be cheaper as a result too.

milesfromordinary said,
I don't understand why everyone wants to protect "the rights" of software pirates so vehemently. YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEFEND THESE PEOPLE! Piracy is clearly wrong and I have a feeling that after they do crack down on it, once the pirates finish their little e-tantrum over not getting things for free any more, the internet will be a better place. Games + software will probably be cheaper as a result too.

Because we all know all these new laws that will be drafted up will never be abused to accomplish other things outside of "pirates"

milesfromordinary said,
I don't understand why everyone wants to protect "the rights" of software pirates so vehemently. YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEFEND THESE PEOPLE! Piracy is clearly wrong and I have a feeling that after they do crack down on it, once the pirates finish their little e-tantrum over not getting things for free any more, the internet will be a better place. Games + software will probably be cheaper as a result too.

I don't support piracy, but that's what 'I' think and the above is what 'you' think... your talking about a country here its the sovereign right to decide what they want to do, who the hell is US to say otherwise? US should declare marshal law over the world while we are at it then.

waqastariq said,

I don't support piracy, but that's what 'I' think and the above is what 'you' think... your talking about a country here its the sovereign right to decide what they want to do, who the hell is US to say otherwise? US should declare marshal law over the world while we are at it then.

Spain does have the right to decide, and the United States wasn't saying it's not their sovereign right to make that decision. The United States placing them on a list pertaining to a specific issue, as a direct result of laws they could pass regarding that specific issue, does not seem to me like much of an interference in sovereignty. It's a natural, logical, and calm potential reaction to an action Spain could make.

milesfromordinary said,

Spain does have the right to decide, and the United States wasn't saying it's not their sovereign right to make that decision. The United States placing them on a list pertaining to a specific issue, as a direct result of laws they could pass regarding that specific issue, does not seem to me like much of an interference in sovereignty. It's a natural, logical, and calm potential reaction to an action Spain could make.

It's the U.S. using its influence to try and force other nations to be more like them.

milesfromordinary said,
I don't understand why everyone wants to protect "the rights" of software pirates so vehemently. YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEFEND THESE PEOPLE! Piracy is clearly wrong and I have a feeling that after they do crack down on it, once the pirates finish their little e-tantrum over not getting things for free any more, the internet will be a better place. Games + software will probably be cheaper as a result too.

Thats Spain's problem, the US is acting like some kind of 'superhero'. They should mind their own business, they just stick their nose in smaller countries.. why can't they do the same with China?

milesfromordinary said,
I don't understand why everyone wants to protect "the rights" of software pirates so vehemently. YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEFEND THESE PEOPLE! Piracy is clearly wrong and I have a feeling that after they do crack down on it, once the pirates finish their little e-tantrum over not getting things for free any more, the internet will be a better place. Games + software will probably be cheaper as a result too.

Sorry but no. Games would not get any cheaper if piracy was eliminated. Just look at the PS3, not much piracy there afaik and games are certainly priced high. If anything PC games where piracy is rampant are actually often cheaper than their console counterpart.

In any case it's not about cracking down on piracy. It's about passing laws that allow governments and corporations to censor, fine and jail people without the proper (and often expensive) legal proceedings simply by referring to a law passed in their favor, written mostly by them. These are laws that cannot be properly monitored (not enough manpower or good enough systems for that) and because of their vague nature can and will be abused outside of their original intent.

acrufox said,

Because we all know all these new laws that will be drafted up will never be abused to accomplish other things outside of "pirates"

Exactly. We all know it's going to be abused...

And I don't support piracy at all. But I don't think the US should be dictating policy for other countries (Or helping them draft legislation)... We simply should not be involved. And then, if they don't do what we say, there will be repercussions? Ridiculous. That is my issue here.

Gerowen said,

It's the U.S. using its influence to try and force other nations to be more like them.

I agree with the post below by Erikas, in that people just enjoy complaining about it because it's the USA. The United States actually HAS influence, which i guess makes other nations (and certain political groups within the US) upset. It is party the United States own fault that people have this perception.

M_Lyons10, I don't think its fair to say that we all know it's going to be abused. While I tend to stand with libertarians on many issues, the internet is largely a lawless realm and bringing some rule of law to it is not the imposition of a police state or some new oppressive regime. To me it's a matter of picking your battles. It's much like libertarian's obsession with legalizing marijuana. There are far more important and larger things in terms of government baring down on it's citizens. In my opinion, this is definitely not one of them.

Economic sanctions can go both ways.

If the US continues to stick its grotesquely long nose into the legislative affairs of other sovereign nations, I hope those nations impose retaliatory measures of their own.

So disgusting, the US always intervene into things that don't concern them. They don't seem to realize that the world doesn't revolve around the US..

waqastariq said,
Become Nazi's with each coming day...

Well, we did elect a Socialist... lol I disagree with stuff like this entirely. We should mind our own business, and in fact be less involved in our citizens business... Let alone citizens of OTHER countries...