Back in my high school days, I remember my Spanish teacher telling us about her time in Spain. The people there, especially the young adult crowd, were not so different from us Americans. They went out, they experienced what life had to offer them and they used the Internet in same ways as we do. Years later, I realized just how similar Spain and America are, and it wasn’t in a good way.
In the start of the new year, the Spanish parliament passed a SOPA-like law entitled the Sinde law. Named after the Minister of Culture Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, the new law has almost all of the same aspects as SOPA except the targeted users. Where SOPA attacks only infringing sites and users, Sinde goes after those who are making a profit off of copyrighted material. The owners would have to make a request to have the pirate website shut down instead of the government taking action for themselves. This caught the eye of the Spanish newspaper El Pais and they did some digging around. What they discovered was a bit unsettling.
El Pais accused the U.S. to putting pressure on the Spanish government to pass the Sinde law when they initially rejected it back in 2010. U.S. ambassador Alan Solomont had written a letter to outgoing prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero reminding him that Spain was still on the Special 301 trade list. What that means is that Spain, among other countries like Greece, Italy and Ukraine, are being watched because they do not provide adequate protection for property rights. The U.S. puts these countries on the list because they feel that they have other priorities that could be detrimental to the security and safety of the nation. This is merely a tool that was used to blackmail the country into following through with the Sinde law.
Why would America bother to threaten Spain like this? One word: justification. When citizens and representatives see that other countries are taking up a SOPA-like law, then they will believe that things wouldn’t be as bad as predicted and in turn, will vote for the passing of SOPA itself. At least this is what supporters hope will happen. Another difference that Sinde has over SOPA is its leniency. In fact, individual online rights are kept in tact since it goes after only content providers rather than those who use the content given out. Piracy isn’t being stopped with Sinde, it’s actually supporting it in a twisted sort of way. Like SOPA, Sinde messes around with the DNS and will block sites that break the rules. But users have easily found other unmanaged sites that they pass on to other users and the problem that comes out of it is that that’s perfectly legal under Sinde.
American supporters don’t seem to understand this. Users are smart and can get around whatever SOPA throws at them. Lawmakers can’t just order blocks on every site that might be an infringement issue, they might as well just shut down the entire Internet. Spain’s Sinde law shows the problems that SOPA will cause to the U.S. as well as the improvements that can be made to the bill. Sinde isn’t as vicious and forceful as SOPA, and even though it has its problems, it seems to be working well. Like my high school teacher said, the people of America and Spain aren’t so different from each other. So maybe we can learn a thing or two from them and better ourselves instead of self incriminate.