Wikileaks: US Threatened Spain to Implement Three Strikes Law

Earlier, we reported that the MPAA, RIAA and the BSA had influenced the push for HADOPI in France according to the Wikileaks ever-present cablegate story. It now turns out that US influence has also been directed at Spain as well. The threat? Implement a three strikes law or be put on the watch list.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It has been said by the major corporate entities – namely the RIAA and the MPAA to name two – that a three strikes law is now becoming an international standard in fighting copyright infringement online. It’s becoming quite apparent that this “standard” is being pushed on to countries with the proverbial pitchfork as motivation as well.

According to one diplomatic cable [reference ID 08MADRID211 ], the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the BSA (Business Software Allience – American) had a roll in pressuring Spain to implement some very tough anti-piracy laws:

Embassy requests Washington agencies to consider an out-of-cycle review for Spain in October 2008. On March 9, parliamentary elections will be held in Spain and a new government will assume office in April. Even if the ruling PSOE is re-elected, we expect significant changes among officials responsible for IPR policy. 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 GOS 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 will adopt measures along the lines of the French and/or UK proposals aimed at curbing internet piracy by the summer of 2009. As this message documents, the Embassy recognizes that the lack of sufficient Spanish progress during the past year could justify Spanish placement on the Watch List. Our out-of-cycle request is made with the view that proceeding in this way be more likely to result in constructive action by the new government.

In short, the Spanish government was demanded to:

1. Say internet piracy was illegal and say that the levy didn’t cover file-sharing
2. Amend any laws that suggested that file-sharing was legal (ala 2006 “Circular)
3. Implement a three strikes law as seen in France

If these demands weren’t met, the trade groups said that they would get Washington to put Spain on the Special 301 priority watch list.

What’s interesting is that this cable was sent at the end of 2009. Just seven months earlier, serious questions about the validity of the report were already being raised. By May of this year, many were dismissing the credibility of the USTR Special 301 report and by the end of July, governments, namely the Canadian government, dismissed the 301 report:

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 process, which relies on industry allegations rather than empirical evidence and analysis,” a spokeswoman for Industry Canada, an agency comparable to the U.S. Department of Commerce, said via e-mail to

Still, even if all this pressure amounted to little more than idle threats in the end, I think it’s very distasteful for American industry to go around to other countries and threatening to send Washington after them if said country doesn’t legislate in a very specific way – especially if they throw around phony numbers like the numbers Industry Canada saw through. This is the international stage, not a school yard. Let’s hope Spain legislates with empirical evidence, not industry allegations.

Further Reading:
EFFs Take on This

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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