Digital Rights in Spain: an analysis of piracy, legislation in digital property and new strategies of content producers

Amaya Noain Sánchez and Porfirio Barroso Asenjo


In the context of Digital Age, all brand new forms of interaction via social media can offer a wide range of chances affecting our daily lives. Computers are changing almost everything in our personal life, business and, by extension, entertainment. Internet and other potent informatics implements make available a diffusion of information like we had never seen before. That is, in fact, a revolution only comparable to Guttembergs’ creation of printing presses. At the same time technological developments generate new opportunities sets of choices that are ultimately positive for humans progress, there is no doubt that these technologies have produced some collateral damages in several ethical aspects. Mason (1986) was summarized ethical issues related to information technology usage by means of an acronym – PAPA (Privacy, Accuracy, Property and Accessibility). Our current research focuses on one of these issues, piracy, and analyses the state of art in Spanish legislation context.

Digitalisation reverting cultural products to the immaterial and the Internet facilitating total automation whereby digital products can be copied infinitely and distributed on a global scale are challenging the prevalent property regime in terms of cultural production fundamentally. The unauthorized downloading and streaming of movies and television shows from the Web is a growing problem for the entertainment industry around the world. Software piracy is globally widespread common practice that costs software manufacturers billions of dollars annually and make authors do not get any benefit for their creations. In a few key countries such as Spain, however, it has become an epidemic that is forcing movie studios to consider no longer selling DVDs in the country. Governments are being pressured into adopting some legislation penalising copyright infringers and, in the Spanish case, new controversial regulation allow collapsing web pages with filesharing and prohibits Internet access to users downloading digital copyright protected content without paying. Unlike in the U.S., France and, under proposed legislation, Britain, piracy is not against the law in Spain unless it is done for profit. The country’s minister of culture, a former filmmaker who is backing a bill that would make it easier to shut off access to websites that facilitate piracy, blames the problem on deep-rooted cultural attitudes.

The proposed law would reverse, in effect, the burden of proof, empowering a new commission to shut down suspect Web sites pending the outcome of any court appeal. However, the number of creators and IS professional thinking about the inefficient of these laws is increasing at the same time they demand new strategies of content producers. Legitimate digital distribution is not filling the gap. Apple Inc.’s iTunes, the world’s biggest digital-media store, does not sell movies or television shows in Spain, as it does in Britain, France and Germany. On the other hand, users feel they are being treated as a continuous guilty when, every time they buy any digital storage device, they have to pay a digital canon in order to support this damage produced by the piracy acts, even also we have no intention to break any property right.

Metodology: Our methodology is a quantitative research on the current measures took in the last years in Spain in order to combat piracy. To accomplish this task, the chosen material could be no other than this mentioned legal text and the reactions published by mass media of the main actorss of this conflic: creators, produccers, distributors, consumers and internet asociations. Content work that would allow us to extract the main complains advantages and shortcomings of these measures and the point of view of a wide range of actors involved.

Findings: regulation of digital content has arrised new generations of problems difficult to solve with ancient property rules. Sometimes creators temselves are totally contrary to the use of some measures involving penalize downloading creative content and renounce voluntarily to their rights. Public opinion in Spain support this attitudes and feel property legislation an inefficient law that helps to limit their access rights.

Research limitation/implication: Although our research is limited to an analysis of ethical implication of piracy, and sumarised the dilemma of an ancient and inoperative model of controling piracy in the specific context of Spanish legislation, we consider that this study will be very useful. We hope conference directors, programmer committee, presenters and finally, people interested in solve the dilemma between piracy and property rights, find this work profitable. We offer also a complete framework of study of ownership and regulation in Spain that can be used to make a comparision with the current situation of piracy in others countries.

Practical implications: This document aims to call the attention to the need of discussing what the useful ways to combat piracy and softwary coping are, reconciling rights of users and content creaters.

Originality/value: The paper contributes to know and show, nowadays, what is the state of this ethical dilema in Spanish country.


1. Barroso Porfirio (2007) Ética y Deontología Informática. Editorial Fragua, Madrid, 134 pages.

2. Barroso Porfirio and Gonzalez Mario (2009) Education On Informatics Ethics: A Challenge To Social Development (Abstract presented and appraoved to ETHICOMP 2010).

3. Mason Richard O. (1986). Four Ethical Issues of the Information Age. Management Information Systems Quarterly, Volume 10, Number 1, 5–12.

4. Ministerio de Cultura de España. (last access: 1/02/2011).