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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