Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Manifiesto: En Defensa De Los Derechos Fundamentales En Internet

The Spanish government announced some proposed legislation yesterday that could lead to Internet users having their access restricted in the name of "anti-piracy". The proposal is being tagged on to the still largely content free Ley de Economia Sostenible. This is a law which is supposed to set out a way forward for the Spanish economy in the next few years, yet it's hard to see how giving the music companies what they want is going to do that. I already pay well over the odds for blank digital media I buy in Spain so that organisations collecting royalties can become ever fatter and regardless of whether the media is used legally or not.

In response to yesterday's announcement a manifesto has been drawn up in opposition to the proposed measure and I am happy to publish it and encourage all those who agree with its content to do the same. An English translation of the manifesto is available here.

Ante la inclusión en el Anteproyecto de Ley de Economía sostenible de modificaciones legislativas que afectan al libre ejercicio de las libertades de expresión, información y el derecho de acceso a la cultura a través de Internet, los periodistas, bloggers, usuarios, profesionales y creadores de internet manifestamos nuestra firme oposición al proyecto, y declaramos que…

1.- Los derechos de autor no pueden situarse por encima de los derechos fundamentales de los ciudadanos, como el derecho a la privacidad, a la seguridad, a la presunción de inocencia, a la tutela judicial efectiva y a la libertad de expresión.

2.- La suspensión de derechos fundamentales es y debe seguir siendo competencia exclusiva del poder judicial. Ni un cierre sin sentencia. Este anteproyecto, en contra de lo establecido en el artículo 20.5 de la Constitución, pone en manos de un órgano no judicial -un organismo dependiente del ministerio de Cultura-, la potestad de impedir a los ciudadanos españoles el acceso a cualquier página web.

3.- La nueva legislación creará inseguridad jurídica en todo el sector tecnológico español, perjudicando uno de los pocos campos de desarrollo y futuro de nuestra economía, entorpeciendo la creación de empresas, introduciendo trabas a la libre competencia y ralentizando su proyección internacional.

4.- La nueva legislación propuesta amenaza a los nuevos creadores y entorpece la creación cultural. Con Internet y los sucesivos avances tecnológicos se ha democratizado extraordinariamente la creación y emisión de contenidos de todo tipo, que ya no provienen prevalentemente de las industrias culturales tradicionales, sino de multitud de fuentes diferentes.

5.- Los autores, como todos los trabajadores, tienen derecho a vivir de su trabajo con nuevas ideas creativas, modelos de negocio y actividades asociadas a sus creaciones. Intentar sostener con cambios legislativos a una industria obsoleta que no sabe adaptarse a este nuevo entorno no es ni justo ni realista. Si su modelo de negocio se basaba en el control de las copias de las obras y en Internet no es posible sin vulnerar derechos fundamentales, deberían buscar otro modelo.

6.- Consideramos que las industrias culturales necesitan para sobrevivir alternativas modernas, eficaces, creíbles y asequibles y que se adecuen a los nuevos usos sociales, en lugar de limitaciones tan desproporcionadas como ineficaces para el fin que dicen perseguir.

7.- Internet debe funcionar de forma libre y sin interferencias políticas auspiciadas por sectores que pretenden perpetuar obsoletos modelos de negocio e imposibilitar que el saber humano siga siendo libre.

8.- Exigimos que el Gobierno garantice por ley la neutralidad de la Red en España, ante cualquier presión que pueda producirse, como marco para el desarrollo de una economía sostenible y realista de cara al futuro.

9.- Proponemos una verdadera reforma del derecho de propiedad intelectual orientada a su fin: devolver a la sociedad el conocimiento, promover el dominio público y limitar los abusos de las entidades gestoras.

10.- En democracia las leyes y sus modificaciones deben aprobarse tras el oportuno debate público y habiendo consultado previamente a todas las partes implicadas. No es de recibo que se realicen cambios legislativos que afectan a derechos fundamentales en una ley no orgánica y que versa sobre otra materia.


Lavengro in Spain said...

As one who ultimately receives, but does not get fat on, the canon that you pay on blank CDs and so on, I most certainly will not support you on this.

I write books and I expect to make money by selling them. People photocopy pages of my books, sometimes the whole thing. They shouldn't do so but they do, they always do, and there is no way of stopping them from doing so.

There is a Spanish organisation called CEDRO that administers my reprographic rights. These are the author's rights (copyright) that I am entitled to for reproduction of my work. CEDRO sells licences to institutions (universities, libraries, big companies and so on) so that they can photocopy any books that they like. It also uses a formula to calculate a proportional payment from its general fund to each registered author for the assumed loss of rights from illegal copying. This fund comes directly from the canon. For 2008 I received €293.72 in taxable income and a maximum of 600 euros total subsidy for optical, dental and other paramedical expenses. If I am overweight, it is not because of my reprographic rights.

We read that e-books are the new thing. I would like to sell my books through that channel, but just this morning I spoke to my lawyer and he advised me strongly against publishing electronic versions of my books for the simple reason that once a file is out on the internet it can be copied, and whatever coding it has it will eventually be broken into and pirated.

It has been hard enough for authors to get this right accepted (and, for that matter, a public lending right, which is just coming into force in Spain). Like many authors, musicians and other creative people I have no intention whatsoever of getting into the same mess with illegal copying of my property on the internet. I will simply not make it available there. And that is what people mean when they say that illegal file copying is stifling creativity.

Graeme said...

I can see why you feel the way you do about the issue, but I disagree with you on some fundamental points. First of all let's get the canon out of the way, I perhaps shouldn't have mixed it with the rest in the first place as it has nothing to do with this manifesto. I wasn't referring to you when I talked of those who get fatter on the canon - honest. What I had in mind was the huge old building which the SGAE have taken over in Boadilla to add to their elegant headquarters in Madrid. In any case I still fail to see why anyone should get their royalties from the cd's which I buy to put MY stuff on. Because of this I'm not helping you very much this year because I've been working in Germany where blank cd's are very much cheaper than in Spain.

Much of the problem with piracy comes from the way the entertainment industry in particular operates. Take the case of music. We more or less end up being obliged to purchase music in changing formats even though we may already have bought the same music in the previous, now obsolete, format. I can't help wondering why I don't get one-off rights to that music regardless of the format used to publish it? The music cd, when there was little competition, was an almighty ripoff with very little of the huge profits going to the artist anyway.

The new proposal will be a significant step in terms of policing internet users largely for the benefit of enormous private corporations - don't imagine that the proposed measures are designed to help you. The way in which it is being done is an attempt to hide it within a larger chunk of legislation, thus avoiding any proper debate of the issues involved.

Tom said...

work in what might be called a 'creative' (or at least 'content based') position, only mine is wholly online. It's interesting that the Spanish government seems to find the copying of an MP3 file serious, but that if material published online is stolen, my only real recourse is to Google, via the United States DCMA law.

I understand Lavengro's position but I wouldn't write the internet off just yet. New devices and accompanying technologies are on the way which will make it much harder to copy purchased books.

While I find manifestos, with a few exceptions, stipulate too many things for me to sign up to... I welcome the initiative and recognise the good thinking behind it. It won't make any difference, of course, but it's a nice gesture.

Lenox said...

I have my name used seventeen different ways by some bozo asshole, but because I'm not protected by some self-serving 'colegio', I am defenceless.
See as an example.
These special interest groups, colegios and ministerios are clearly not there to represent the public.
Spain, Iran, China... did I miss one?

Graeme said...


It's already made some difference, the government has been forced to react and may even end up changing the proposed law. It's certainly taken much of the shine off the presentation of the new law.


Maybe if you can get the SGAE to collect royalties off them they might release the domains?

Lavengro in Spain said...

I can explain how the book-publishing industry works; I understand that the music industry is similar but know very little about it.

Publishers are not popular with authors (Barabbas was a publisher, it is said) but they are a necessary evil. The publisher pays for the printing of the book (typically about 5-10 euros) and must by law pay 10% of the pre-tax catalogue price (not the discounted price at which the book might actually be sold) in royalties; the rest goes in marketing the book and general overheads. Part of the work of the SGAE and similar organisations is to ensure that this royalty payment is actually made; in fact it has a legal obligation to do so. If they need a bigger building (I am a member of the Catalan Writers’ Association so I can’t speak for the SGAE), this is perhaps because they are finally getting royalty payments made at last. As a result, there is no shortage of people willing to give the SGAE a bad press. You may remember a fuss in the summer about a town getting into trouble with the SGAE over a play by Lope de Vega. It was an adaptation, and rights are payable on an adapted version of a work that is itself out of copyright. The author of the adaptation said handsomely and loudly that he was not doing it for money and wasn’t interested in the royalties. Well of course he wasn’t, because he’d assigned his copyright to the Ayuntamiento of the town that was presenting the play! Another curious copyright story is that until 1997 the rights to the Grenadiers’ March were in private hands, so until the Spanish State bought the rights-holder out it had to pay a royalty fee every time it played its own national anthem!

The big problem arises when an author sells his copyright to the publisher. I think this is done less nowadays but publishing history has tales of penniless authors making a fast buck by selling the rights to what later became a best-seller. Jack London did this with White Fang. I think that the artist who designed the Sergeant Pepper album got a one-off fee. Selling rights can also give the publisher the power to kill a book that it does not want to see published. Organisations such as the SGAE, which exist to defend authors’ rights, employ lawyers to ensure that such rights are not infringed or abused. To do they obviously need proper facilities and premises.

The format problem is an old chestnut. I have a Kindle ebook reader. Amazon have adopted the same model as Apple use with iTunes: you download a file that is only supported by that kind of device. Now, the first problem is that computer files are not like physical discs; when you have a file on your iPod you can give that file to anyone else who has an iPod. But worse than that, anyone can go the internet and download freeware that will convert iTunes files to mp3 format. So a file that has been sold once can be used by thousands of people. The same will happen with ebooks; sooner or later, and probably sooner, someone will find a way of converting them to pdf format. And, as you probably know, the security settings on pdf files are useless. Authors and musicians (composers and performers) are rightly concerned that this will lead to massive illegal copying of copyright material. Having said that, making copies of music files for personal use on different devices (and obviously back-ups) should not be a problem. It would be a very silly prosecutor who went for that one, even if it is illegal (and I am not at all sure that it is). The problem is with the fine line between that and giving copies to family members, your best friend, a neighbour you owe a favour to, everyone in your office, and so on.

To be continued (message too long)

Lavengro in Spain said...

Message continued

The reason why formats change (apart from changing technology) and why you do not have a lifetime right to a piece of music is because of the constant battle to find formats that will sell, thereby generating for their rights-holders, but that cannot be fraudulently copied. A very small number of publishers are rich, and a vanishingly tiny number of authors and musicians are (though I don’t begrudge J K Rowling a penny). The rest struggle to a greater or lesser degree to make a living, and rely on publishers and rights associations in order to do so. The unrestricted copying of copyright material will make it impossible for small people to survive financially.

Finally, it is obvious that taxing CD-ROMs and other support media is a crude way of going about things, but the problem is that the people who should be paying obviously cannot be identified – and if you think you pay a lot on a CD-ROM, try looking at the import duty on a high-level photocopier. Surely though, the sensible thing is to criticise the people who cause the problem, rather than the steps that are taken to remedy it.

ejh said...

The unrestricted copying of copyright material will make it impossible for small people to survive financially.

I'm far from sure this is true: I don't think it's been true in music where it's been possible to copy illegally without fear of punishment for decades. I don't like it: I'm a published author myself (my last royalty statement arrived just the other day). But in fact it's not improbable that the net effect of illegal copying of literature (of all kinds) is to increase interest in that literature and therefore to induce more people to buy it.

Lavengro in Spain said...

I have heard the theory that copying increases awareness and this sales in the long run. It may very well be true in certain cases but I have a nasty feeling that if I produce an electronic version of a book for people learning English, I will sell precisely one copy in China and that will be it!

Lavengro in Spain said...

This letter appears in today's El País (

Soy músico de jazz, compositor de música original, y también productor de mis propios discos. Los avances en tecnología digital nos permitieron a los que nos movemos en este "submundo" escasamente comercial o minoritario autoproducir nuestros discos con buena calidad de grabación, y sin tener que ponernos al servicio de discográficas que en realidad carecen de criterio artístico e interfieren, gracias al poder que les da la pasta, en este proceso de parir un disco.

Con los músicos de mi grupo creamos nuestro pequeño sello, sólo para editar nuestra música, a nuestro modo. Pero una de nuestras más sólidas fuentes de venta era en los conciertos, lo que además nos daba un contacto muy directo con nuestro público; pronto nos dimos cuenta de que cada CD comprado era copiado numerosas veces, lo cual no se ocultaba en absoluto. Era frecuente el comentario "tú compra ése y yo el otro y luego nos hacemos copias para todos...". Así bajan a la mitad o menos las ventas, a pesar de que la ausencia de intermediarios nos permitía poner un precio más que razonable. Hasta aquí, hacer un buen y trabajado CD seguía siendo más o menos rentable, pero al poco tiempo el comentario era: "¿Diez euros? Y, ¿no estará colgado en la Red? Sin nuestra autorización, siempre lo estaba, a mano y gratis. Hacer un buen CD que, entre componer, ensayar, grabar, mezclar, masterizar, etcétera, supone un trabajo de varios años, es, no sólo no rentable, sino casi humillante.

Ángel Rubio González