Say NO to LSSI. Freedom of Speech in Danger in Spain

By David Casacuberta

Freedom of expression is in real danger now in Spain. If the Electronic Commerce (Society of Information Services) Directive is approved, most websites that are not "properly" registered would be considered illegal and have to face enormous fees which will in fact paralyse their activity forever.

This directive -ready to be approved in the Spanish Parliament any time- has invented the concept of "society of information services" and wants to legislate plain exchange of information as an economic activity, ruling out therefore, any publisher -like NGOs- which do not really perform any commercial activities and can not face all the legal and bureaucratic activities that the Electronic Commerce (Society of Information Services) Directive wants.

According to article 2, free distribution of information, even if it implies no direct payments from customers is an "society of information services" and, therefore, subjcet to this electronic commerc directive. You don't have to be paid to be considered an actor in the "society of information services": as it is stated later in the article 2, search engines or on-line compilation of information are also "society of information services", which means that news digests, electronic libraries, a repository of academic papers, NGOs that publish regular news about violations of human rights... have to conduct their actions in cyberspace according to an electronic commerce directive, which is absolutely preposterous.

Strangely enough, the only exceptions considered under this article are: Public Broadcasting -TV and Radio, TV Teletext" but no reference to NGOs, universities...e-mail is also excluded, as long as you don't use it for "society of information services", but then, if you are an NGO and keep a newsletter about human rights violations you are again liable under this directive.

As you can see, the scope of this directive is not at all electronic commerce, but the whole Internet. Article 50 makes it mandatory to register any webs related to these "Services". Therefore this directive may turn ilegal any website that has not been publicly registered and has its own domain name (most websites in Spain, as you may suspect). Article 50 stablishes a fee of 90.000 euros! If there is a "lack of communication to the public register in which they are registered, of the domain name or names which they use to offer society of information services".

Article 11 makes impossible anonymous websites. According to this article, it is mandatory to give your

  1. Name, social/commercial address.

  2. All the data submited to a commercial/public register.

Plus several extra data if you are really developing electronic commerce activities.

Also see that, as long as you are a "society of information services" provider it is mandatory to present data under b), the data submitted to a register, this clearly imply that you *must* register before opening a website. So, even if you don't mind to put your own name, but you are not registered anywhere, it means you are violating article 11 as well.

Also article 30 makes it mandatory to conduct all the operations with the user as if it was a commercial transaction: that is, you have to provide a proper contract, language of choice and several other measures that make sense if we are considering a prper commercial transaction, but which are nonsensical if we are talking about just people exchanging information in the web.

Let's consider this hypothetic case: a registered NGO in Spain with no funds to get a proper domain name or webspace has decided to put a website where they inform about human rights in Spain. They offer webpages with general information plus a mailing list devoted to these issues. According to the law, they should have registered a domain name, but they haven't, plus they are "publicizing some activities" and they didn't register themselves anywhere, so that's another illicit act, both violates article 50.4. Plus, they are not conducting this exchanging of information with a proper commercial model, so they are also violating article 30.

Even worse, if they want to be anonymous, which is understandable if they are dennouncing human rights violations in Spain, they are also breaking article 11.

All together, this poor NGO could be faced with a fee of 29.000.000 pesetas (aprox 175.000 euros) just for publishing a website. The message for corrupt politicians/judges is clear. If there is some annoying group which keeps an annoying website, just use the directive and fry them with enormous fees.

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