Spain is introducing tough new penalties for owners of websites that link to pirated versions of copyrighted material, after pressure from the US over its piracy record.
Under new legislation introduced as part of a wider reform of the country's penal code, owners of sites found to be making money from linking to pirated material will face prison sentences of up to six years and the closure of their site.
It is the first time Spanish authorities have targeted owners of sites that just provide links to copyrighted material that is illegally distributed via other websites. Previously the law targeted just those who "reproduce, plagiarise, distribute or pass on" copyrighted material, while leaving those who provide the links immune from prosecution, a report in the Spanish newspaper El Pais said.
However, users of these link-sharing sites will not be targeted under the new law and search engines and peer-to-peer users will also be exempt.
Speaking at a news conference held on Friday, Spain's justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said: "This is a real balance between protecting copyright and new technologies."
Spain had been under pressure from US authorities to crack down on piracy: the country was placed on an international piracy blacklist back in 2008 because of the high number of illegal downloads here. However, it was removed from the list when the current prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, came to power and proposed tougher new laws to deal with online piracy.
Remaining on the US blacklist could have resulted in trade sanctions being placed on Spain, reports said.
The new legislation is expected to come into effect by the spring of 2014.