Brazil Tells Brazilians: Piracy Is Robbery

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.
by: Bianca
Estrella

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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