Jail for duo who ran website linking to pirated newspapers and magazines

High Court hands down exemplary sentence using tough new intellectual property law

YouKioske’s Facebook profile image.
YouKioske’s Facebook profile image.

The two owners of a Spain-based website that offered free links to around 17,000 online newspapers and magazines have each been jailed for three years, the toughest sentence yet handed down by a Spanish court for internet piracy.

David González Hernández and Raúl Antonio Luque Gutiérrez, the administrators of YouKioske, were found guilty on March 4 of one charge of breaching intellectual property legislation and three others of belonging to a criminal organization. These are the first prison sentences to be handed down in Spain for intellectual property theft.

These are the first prison sentences to be handed down in Spain for intellectual property theft

In January, the government introduced tough new intellectual property legislation despite the opposition of all other parties in Congress. The Socialist Party has now referred the laws to the Constitutional Court.

The High Court said in its ruling that the two men set up YouKioske with the sole intention of making money from using content created by others, that they were aware they did not have the permission of the owners of the material they provided links to, and that in so doing they had caused economic loss to the owners of the material. The ruling also allowed for around €196,000 the two men had allegedly made from the website to be seized.

The Association of Spanish Newspaper Publishers (AEDE) and the Spanish Center for Reprographic Rights (CEDRO) have praised the ruling, calling it “the most important sentence” to date in the fight against internet piracy.

Defense lawyers for the two argued that when the men were arrested in May 2012, providing links to published material did not constitute publication. But the new legislation now stipulates that it is illegal to provide links to published material without the express consent of the owner, that ownership of material published by a newspaper, website or any other publication is inalienable, and that payment is obligatory and cannot be waived by the owner.

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The sentence noted that González Hernández and Luque Gutiérrez had been repeatedly asked by publishers to stop linking to their material. “This case highlights the absolute disdain of the accused not just for the law itself, but above all for those who were damaged by the offense,” said the court.

Under Spain’s new intellectual property laws, people found guilty of running websites that provide links to other content can be fined up to €600,000. In response, over the last two months, dozens of sites have closed.

The case against YouKioske was brought by AEDE and CEDRO, which said the jail terms highlighted “the need to respect intellectual property and the consequences of breaching the law.”

They described the sentence as “particularly relevant because it recognizes that providing links to protected works constitutes communication, which requires the permission of the publishers.”