BARCELONA—A judge in Spain has ruled peer-to-peer websites to be legal and presumed innocent until proven guilty of any copyright violation.
The judgment is another setback for film, music and gaming companies in Spain, which recently saw their push for a "three-strikes" graduated response and then internet cut-off for copyright violators shut down by government officials, following public protests.
The Coalition of Creators and Content Industries wants to see all Spanish P2P groups taken offline. Most have been accused of allowing users to exchange copyrighted files.
The Spanish judge said user sharing for no profit does not breach copyright laws, reports TorrentFreak.
The ruling is part of an ongoing case where Spanish rights group SGAE (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores) has accused sharing site elrincondejesus.com of copyright violations.
"As you know Elrincondejesus.com never had advertising (or has now)," the owner said on his site. "I’m innocent and the only thing that I have done is provided links to other sites, like thousands of search engines in the world.”
According to Elmundo.es, Judge Raul N. García Orejudo dismissed SGAE’s request to have the site shut down and made his ruling that states P2Ps are not illegal.
"P2P networks, as a mere transmission of data between internet users, do not violate, in principle, any right protected by intellectual property law," Orejudo ruled from the bench in Barcelona.
Orejudo said that presumed innocence must be applied to sharing sites.
"This is the first time a court clearly states that P2P itself does not violate any rights," attorney Carlos Almeida-Sanchez told Elmundo.es.
Weighing in on copyright infringement on sharing sites, the judge said, "[A]dding a work or video recording ... that has previously been converted to a compatible computer file, is not an act of reproduction."
The judge also said, "Copying is not a profitable use, or collective use [such as broadcasting in a retail store], as these two terms refer to the subsequent use made of the work once downloaded, after the copy."
The case isn't over yet, as the judge noted it's possible public distribution of some copyrighted files may have occurred, which would be illegal. But this must be proved by the rights groups with cold, hard facts, not claims based on assumptions regarding file sharing.
A trial date has yet to be scheduled.