Leave it to the Pirates

 Leave it to the Pirates

At least half of all CDs sold in Brazil are pirated copies.

For a long time Brazil ranked sixth in the world in CD sales.
In
2000 it fell 12th place, behind Australia, Italy and Spain.
By
Elma Lia Nascimento

Sony Brazil wrapped in secrecy the recent release of
Roberto Carlos – Acústico MTV. Year after year, since 1959,
veteran singer Roberto Carlos has been one of the top-selling recording artists in Brazil. Typically, he prepares an album a year,
which is released at year’s end to coincide with the gift-giving Christmas season. For his latest production, Sony did not even
send preview copies of the new CD for the media to prevent the album from falling in the hands of the CD pirates that infest
Brazil. All this effort, however, was useless.

One day before the CD was put for sale following a massive ad campaign and article in the media, the Roberto
Carlos’s Christmas’s album was all over the country being sold by street vendors in counterfeited copies. They were charging 10
reais ($4) for four CDs. In the stores the price for one CD was 28 reais ($12).

At least half of all CDs sold in Brazil are pirated copies. Sony’s action was a wake-up call, showing that piracy in
Brazil is more pervasive than previously thought and hinting that insiders from the recording company itself must be involved
in the scheme.

For a long time Brazil ranked sixth in the world in CD sales. In 1997 it fell though to
7th place. But the real shocker came in 2000 when the country tumbled to
12th place, behind Australia, Italy and Spain. The country that sells most CDs today
is the US followed by Japan and the United Kingdom.

In Brazil the recording companies are losing their war against CD pirates. They have already conceded defeat to them
in the cassette tape field. Today music tape cassettes are the almost exclusive domain of the counterfeiting Mafia.

In 1996, the ABPD (Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Disco—Brazilian Association of Record Producers)
created the APDIF (Associação Protetora dos Direitos Intelectuais e Fonográficos—Association to Protect Intellectual and
Recording Rights). Since then the recording companies have already spent more than $15 million in anti-piracy campaigns.

Even though there are daily seizures of pirated material (in average, 20,000 CDs are seized every day) the amount of
pirated CDs available to the public has been growing steadily.

For Márcio Gonçalves, ABPD’s general director, his association has done what it could to prevent and stop piracy.
“We’ve been fighting piracy since 1995,” he says. “The problem is that our effort to stop this practice is isolated.”

All the major recording companies in Brazil press their CDs in Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, because
that city offers special incentives and tax reductions up to 40 percent to several industries. It’s believed that some CDs are
stolen during the transportation of the product to São Paulo, Rio and other big cities.

Between 1996 and 1998 the piracy industry acquired their products ready from Southeast Asia. The advancement
of technology and the reduced price of CD-duplicating equipment, though, have spawned a whole industry of home-based
CD factories. Computers equipped with up to 8 copying drives can produce around 500 records in one hour.

Street vendors in order to prevent their goods from being seized by the police hide most of the CDs in warehouses,
showing for sale just a few copies of each title. Using cell phones they set a network through which they warn one another about
police raids.

The Producers’ Association has another problem to deal with: what to do with the pirated CDs they caught since
1996. They accumulated 5.5 million CDs and audio cassettes. The material can only be destroyed with a judicial order though.
The order has been requested, but the Brazilian justice is in no hurry and in the meantime the ABPD is looking for a second
warehouse to continue stocking the undesired goods.

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