U.S. Ambassador Threatens to ‘Downgrade’ Spain over Online Piracy Laws

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Chema Moya / Reuters

Just how serious is the U.S.’ dedication to fighting online piracy? A leaked letter sent by the U.S. Ambassador in Madrid to the Spanish president suggests it’s apparently serious enough to offer veiled threats to nations who apparently aren’t doing enough to help in the struggle.

A letter from U.S. Ambassador Alan Solomont to outgoing Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, dated December 12, leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, argues that the government has “unfortunately failed to finish the job [of passing specific anti-piracy legislation] for political reasons, to the detriment of the reputation and economy of Spain” before going on to state that Spain is on a list compiled by U.S. trade representatives of countries not providing “adequate and effective” protection of intellectual property. The letter suggests that Spain may find itself joining a blacklist of “the worst violators of global intellectual property rights” if it doesn’t change direction soon.

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“The government of Spain made commitments to the rights owners and to the US government. Spain can not afford to see their credibility questioned on this issue,” Solomont wrote, continuing that “rampant internet piracy hurts the economy of Spain and cultural industries.”

That the proposed Spanish anti-piracy legislation was similar in scope to the much-discussed (and derided) Stop Online Piracy Act has not escaped attention; Art Brodskey of the Washington-based group Public Knowledge commented, “It is unfortunate that the US ambassador is again issuing threats to the new Spanish government over the implementation of a law similar to one that is generating quite a bit of controversy in the US and has brought forth opposition from all sides of the political spectrum.” One can just imagine the letters that could be written if SOPA fails to pass in the U.S.

MORE: SOPA: What if Google, Facebook and Twitter Went Offline in Protest?

Disclosure: Time Inc. parent company Time Warner supports SOPA legislation.

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.