Landwell scares Spanish peer-to-peer users
On 17 July, Landwell, a Spanish legal firm related to
Price-Waterhouse-Coopers, issued a press release stating that they were
planning to present a lawsuit against 4.000 Spanish Kazaa users for
illegally downloading copyrighted material such as movies, songs or
software. They announced they had identified a total of 95.000 Spanish
file-sharers, and were going to start with the prosecution of the 4.000
most serious ones.
In fact, this would be the biggest prosecution of internet users yet in
Europe, mimicking the recent hunt down of users in the United States.
Before, only Danish users were brought to court, when in December 2002, APG
(Antipiracygroup) registered the IP numbers of potential copyright
violators (i.e. people that offered files on Kazaa and eDonkey) and
subsequently used the IP numbers to get a court order. With the court order
in place, APG got the users names and addresses from the ISPs, and
subsequently sent out app. 150 requests for financial compensation.
The announcement of the Spanish lawsuit was accompanied by a request to use
unspecified software able to emulate p2p protocols in order to identify the
users. Several cyberrights organization acted very fast, stating that users
have a perfect right to share files as long as there is no profit behind
it. The Asociacion de Internautas (a large internet user association)
compared Landwell to the Gestapo and freely offered their lawyers to any
Spanish citizen that would be accused under the announced lawsuit.
The cyberrights e-zine Kriptópolis made a special issue, including a text
by Xavier Ribas, the main lawyer behind the lawsuit from Landwell, and a
reply from Carlos Sánchez Almeida, a well-known expert in legal internet
issues. Analyzing and comparing the arguments, it becomes quite clear that
the lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to create fear amongst Spanish
users, as there seems to be nothing solid behind the lawsuit. First of all,
it is not clear that sharing files is a crime, if it is done non-profit.
More importantly, the system Landwell used to track the users (the Kazaa
protocols) does not offer enough information to track the real identities
of the users.
In fact, in a recent radio interview, Ribas admitted that the lawsuit had
not been presented yet, giving further rise to the suspicion that it never
Ribas: Compartir copias no autorizadas a través de P2P es delito (26.07.2003)
Almeida: Compartir no es delito (23.07.2003)
Wired News: Spanish firm target file traders (23.07.2003)
(Contribution by David Casacuberta, CPSR Spain)