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Brazzil - Behavior - June 2004
 

Brazil Tells Brazilians: Piracy Is Robbery

Out of every three CDs or DVDs sold in Brazil last year, one was
pirate. Brazil, however, still lacks official data on the economic
damages caused by the sale of falsified products. All that exist
are estimates. It is estimated, for example, that the Brazilian
audiovisual sector loses US$ 120 million a year due to piracy.

Bianca Estrella


Brazzil

Picture For a three-month period, beginning next week, some 1,800 movie theatres around Brazil will be showing a series of shorts, each about 45 seconds long, on the damage done by piracy.

The film shorts will compare piracy to robbery and attempt to make people aware of the problems created when they buy counterfeit films or make unauthorized downloads.

There are 120,000 jobs in the Brazilian audiovisual sector which pays some US$ 64.4 million (200 million reais) in taxes annually. However, it is estimated that losses due to piracy reach almost double that—around US$ 119.5 million (370 million reais), not to mention the loss of 17,000 jobs. Out of every three CDs or DVDs sold in Brazil last year, one was pirate.

A congressional investigation (CPI, Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito) discovered that piracy in Brazil is a big business run by organized crime. "We have to make people aware of the fact that piracy causes unemployment, fraud and tax evasion, besides strengthening organized crime," says deputy Luiz Antonio de Medeiros, from São Paulo, who was the chairman of the CPI.

In April, Brazil saw the First National Meeting of Public Prosecutors Specialized in Combating Crimes Against Intellectual Property, which took place in Angra dos Reis, a municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The encounter discussed the war on piracy.

For two days solicitors, prosecutors, attorneys, and presidents of companies that deal with competition and patents discussed proposals for government policies to combat illegal commerce in the European and Latin American communities. They also talked about ethics in competitive relations, cigarette smuggling, tax evasion and trademarks and patents, among other issues.

Also in April, the Interministerial Committee to Combat Piracy and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) held a meeting in Brasília with organizations from the Mercosur member-countries (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil, together with associate members, Chile and Bolivia) to discuss copyrights and the war on piracy in Latin America.

The purpose of the encounter was to seek a common agreement for the region, based on a debate over proposals, as well as to promote training and technical cooperation.

"Our main goal is to work out an exchange of experiences with respect to the observance of intellectual property rights, more specifically in relation to combating piracy in the Mercosur countries, Bolivia, and Chile," said Isabella Pimentel, consultant at the WIPO office of Economic Development for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Brazil's Al Capone

An operation carried out March 10, in downtown São Paulo, resulted in the seizure of around five thousand sacks containing counterfeit goods and smuggled merchandise, with an estimated worth of US$ 2.5 million (7,5 million reais).

Civil police officers, inspectors from the State Secretariat of Finance and the Federal Revenue Office, Federal Police and Municipal Government agents, and representatives of the Parliamentary Investigation Committee (CPI) on Piracy took part in the raid., in the March 25 Shopping Center, in the central zone of the city,

According to José Clóvis Cabrera, regional tax supervisor of the Secretariat of Finance, 50 percent of the items that were seized, such as cameras, purses, eyeglasses, clothes, watches, and software are contraband, and the other 50 percent are counterfeit.

According to the investigations conducted by the CPI on Piracy, the place raided—the March 25 Shopping Center, one of the largest shopping centers in the capital—belongs to a Chinese-born naturalized Brazilian businessman, Law Kin Chong, considered one of the biggest black market dealers in the country.

For the president of the CPI, Federal Deputy Luiz Antônio de Medeiros, from São Paulo, the task force, besides seizing illegal products, is seeking evidence "to arrive at the heads of organized crime, like Law Kin Chong."

In Medeiros's view, Chong is one of the main targets of the CPI's efforts, which are aimed at his conviction. "Nobody doubts that Chong is the biggest smuggler in Brazil. Clearly he is well-prepared, as was Al Capone, who was very difficult to arrest but was arrested for tax evasion."

Education

Since last year, the federal government is promising to wage an offensive against piracy in Brazil. In 2002, a national educational campaign was prepared to raise popular awareness of the harm done by the consumption of falsified products and to impede their entry into the country. Posters containing information about this type of crime were affixed in ports, airports, and bus stations.

The Interministerial Committee to Combat Piracy, which was created in 2001 for the purpose of coordinating and planning programs to combat piracy, is composed of representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Culture, Finance, Foreign Relations, Science and Technology, and Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade.

Among the challenges faced by the body is the insertion of the battle against piracy into the context of the Mercosur. At the moment, Brazil is the only member of the bloc that has a central organization to combat the sale of falsified products.

Nevertheless, according to Monteiro, the country still lacks official data on the economic damages caused by the sale of falsified products. All that exist are estimates, such as that of the Association for the Defense of Intellectual Property, which claims losses of approximately US$ 120 million per year just in the audiovisual sector.

The second challenge is to instruct police officers about what is, in fact, piracy. The National Police Academy has already introduced classes on intellectual property in its curriculum and intends to extend this subject to state civil and military police academies.

The third, big challenge singled out by the coordinator of the committee is raising popular awareness that piracy constitutes a crime, specified in article 180 of the Penal Code, prescribing punishments of a fine and one to four years' imprisonment for anyone who acquires, receives, or transports objects he (she) knows to be of illegal origin.

In a February 2003 Federal Police operation called Operation Corsair III to combat piracy on a national scale, 406,758 recorded CD's, 29,528 blank CD's, and 56,559 cases and various inserts for CD's were confiscated in the state of Pernambuco.

All-Fronts War

"Every civilized country in which the capitalist system functions needs protection from piracy," affirmed Brazil's Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos. The Minister believes it is important to combat this misdemeanor right from its roots, since it can grow and open the doors to organized crime. "This is a war that we want to win, and the only way we can win is to attack on all fronts," he declared.

The Interministerial Committee to Combat Piracy was created in March, 2001, for the purpose of formulating, coordinating, promoting, implementing, and stimulating programs of prevention, education, and repression to combat the violation of copyright laws. One of the committee's priorities is to increase popular awareness of the harm caused by the practice of product falsification.

The plan is to conduct educational campaigns through the media, with the participation of associations and entities dedicated to the protection of intellectual property.

The committee is formed by representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Culture, Finance, Foreign Relations, Science and Technology, and Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade. The organ is headed by Federal Police commissioner, Clóvis da Silva Monteiro.


Bianca Estrella works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.




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