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Spain seeks fast track for pirate site shutdowns

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Spain has proposed a new anti-piracy law that would let intellectual property police play a speedier game of whack-a-mole with websites serving illegal downloads of music and films.

The measure allows a judge to act on a complaint filed by the newly formed intellectual property commission at Spain's ministry of culture by closing websites accused of facilitating piracy,

Under a fast-track judicial process the website's owner would be summoned at the time of the initial complaint and given four days to appeal.

Critics of the proposed plan say that it could be used as a method of censorship and that even websites like Google could be subject to shut-down under the law.

Spain's original version of the plan, unveiled to widespread criticism in November, would have allowed the IP commission to shutter websites without any judicial authorization. Friday's new draft requires the authorization of a judge.

"A judge's order will always need 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 AFP reports.

The proposed legislation is part of a Sustainable Economy Law currently being drawn up by the Spanish government. It still must get approval from parliament.

Spain's proposal takes a different tack from the "Three Strikes" law passed in France, where internet access is removed from end-users accused of repeated illegal downloading.

Promusicae, a Spanish record label lobby, claims the industry lost $1.6bn in revenue in 2007 and 2008 because of online music piracy. US copyright lobbies and politicians have accused the country of reluctance to combat internet piracy and allowing the practice to be "widely perceived as an acceptable cultural phenomenon."

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