About 350 Brazilian federal agents swung into action today in a multi-state operation to halt the sale of pirated software. Called Operation I-Commerce, a play on the term e-commerce, the I standing for illegal, the police effort swept over 13 states.
Authorities had already nabbed 20 people by early afternoon. The federal police are trying to comply with 79 orders of search and seizure. For the most part, those arrested are middle-class students.
The states involved are Bahia, Mato Grosso, Paraíba, Paraná, Rio Grande do Norte, Goiás, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Rondônia, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and São Paulo. The action was also extended to Federal District, Brasília.
Besides pirated software the police action also intends to stop the commercialization via Internet or mail of illegal copies of movies, TV serials, music and video games. The investigations led to the several independent groups acting in several states throughout the country.
The Federal Police say that the losses caused to the industry by those pirates surpass 10 million reais (US$ 4.7 million).
According to police chief Cristina Figueiredo, head of the Repression to Fiscal Crimes Division from Minas Gerais state’s Federal Police, the investigations started four months ago, after authorities received complaints from associations dedicated to copyright protection and the Conselho Nacional de Combate à Pirataria (National Council to Combat Piracy), linked to Brazil’s Justice Ministry.
Police agents are seizing computers and material used for counterfeiting and also arresting those behind the piracy. According to the Brazilian legislation, pirates may get from two to four years in prison for violating copyrights. But they might get extra years for tax evasion.
For Luis Paulo Barreto, president of the National Council to Combat Piracy (CNCP) the illegal commerce of software, CDs and DVDs has been trying to find new avenues for their business, like the Internet, to escape growing pressure from authorities on their traditional selling places.
Barreto says that the sites specialized in piracy have been expanding their activities, offering not only CD’s and software but also car and plane spare parts, cancer drugs and even medical equipment.
"The consumer needs to know that most of the time piracy is tied to organized crime, to the Chinese, Korean, Lebanese, Brazilian Mafias, and that in 10% of the seizures police find drugs, weapons and ammunition," says the CNCP chief.