The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has asked the US Trade Representative (USTR) to conduct a special review into the Spanish government’s stance on piracy

It is the first time the IIPA has taken the step of calling for an out of cycle review of the piracy situation in Spain. It recommended the move in its annual report,

Spain has been kept on the IIPA’s Special 301 report Watch List of piracy offenders because it believes “internet piracy in Spain continues to worsen, such that many of the copyright industries believe that Spain has the worst per capita internet piracy problem in Europe and one of the worst overall internet piracy rates in the world.”

The IIPA is a private sector coalition which represents more than 1,900 companies across the music and film industries among others. Each year it submits a report to the USTR on how each country is tackling the problem of piracy, and then places the offending countries on a priority watchlist or watchlist for lesser offenders.

In the report, the IIPA states: “By summer 2009, the Spanish government should conclude development of an effective action plan to reduce the availability of unauthorized content online and to govern ISP responsibility, in particular the adoption of an effective system to educate subscribers and provide for deterrent sanctions against repeat infringers and effective site blocking or removal.”

It also recommends the government “begin the legislative and regulatory process to provide the legal framework within which anti-piracy measures and ISP responsibility can operate.”

One of the chief concerns of the IIPA is that in Spain peer-to-peer downloading is not considered illegal (unless the person sharing the material is making money from doing so) due to a ruling made by the Chief Prosecutor in Spain in 2006. This is a decision the IIPA wish to see reversed.

The Motion Picture Association announced recently that there were 350 million illegal downloads last year in Spain, compared with 240 million in 2007. The local industry has been pushing the government to do something about the problem for years, but with little success.

The Spanish film industry hopes that the problem will be tackled properly following the appointment of filmmaker Angeles Gonzalez Sinde as minister of culture in Spain last month.

Since her appointment, the country prosecuted the administrator of a P2P filesharing site. He was sentenced to six months in jail because it was considered that he had made money from copyright infringement on his site through advertising.

The USTR is currently deciding whether to press ahead with the review.