P2P sharing dealt a blow in Spain
11 Apr 2006


Users call it "sharing" but the recording, movie and software industry calls it piracy. P2P networks have long been a thorn in the side of the industry, but now the Spanish police has made a move which may have serious repercussions. The operation was claimed to be unprecedented by law enforcement agencies and for the first time struck against those sharing links to downloads, rather than the networks themselves. In all, fifteen people have been arrested in different parts of Spain and seventeen websites have been shut down.

According to police sources, the fifteen people detained range in age between 19 and 53. Most are IT engineers and some were top-level managers in "large telecommunications companies" that operate in the ISP market. All the men were involved in running popular portals that contained links to music, video and software downloads using P2P clients like Emule, Edonkey, Bittorrent or Azureus. The sites attracted large numbers of users and an estimated total of 615 million visits was recorded on the seventeen sites involved in the investigation. Given this level of popularity, the portal owners earned around EUR900,000 from advertising and related online commercial activities.

This move represents a new method of dealing with illegal content sharing and is fully supported by the SGAE, the body representing the interests of authors and editors in Spain. Police sources claim that piracy is rife in Spain and for 3 million legal music downloads there have been 350 million illegal ones. However, Victor Domingo, president of the Spanish Internet users association has called the operation a "sort of sinister marketing in favour of the claims by the authors and editors". He also strongly criticised the Police for sowing seeds of "social alarm" about the issue and branded their actions "irresponsible". For Domingo, the legality of the arrests is also questionable, since no judge had declared the activities of the fifteen men illegal. Spanish law, according to Domingo, allows sharing data using the Internet, but only in cases where there is no actual financial gain. The sites that were shut down, he says, only offered a catalogue and search engine service and played no part in the actual exchange of data. However, an SGAE representative said that the police operation has been "good news" in a country where piracy is responsible for annual losses of around EUR 1 billion.