Spain presents new Internet anti-piracy law

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The Independent Online

The Spanish government presented on Friday a proposed new Internet anti-piracy law which will allow judges to shut down websites offering illegal downloads of music, movies and other entertainment.

"A judge's order will always be needed to take this decision through a quick procedure which is taken within four days at the latest after the judge has heard all sides," Justice Minister Francisco Caamano told a news conference.

The initial version of the law unveiled in November allowed for sites to be blocked or closed by a new regulatory body without a judge's order.

It sparked an outcry from bloggers and other Internet users who argued that it could be used by the government to censor websites.

A manifesto against the draft law was signed by tens of thousands of people in Spain, which has one of the highest rates of illegal downloads.

Last month Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said his socialist government would introduce a new version of the draft law which addressed these concerns.

"If the draft law needs to be clarified, it will be. But the government feels that a country which wants to have intellectual property must protect it," he said.

The new draft law still must be approved by parliament before it it comes into effect.

The entertainment industry has been pushing the government to take action against illegal Internet downloads of copyright-protected material, arguing it cost them millions of euros (dollars) each year.