Brazil Declares War on Pirates

Paulo Rebêlo
Wired News
May 2001

Brazil has launched an all-out war against software piracy, creating a zero-tolerance policy to be implemented May 18 by the newly created Interministerial Committee for Piracy Combat.

The idea of the program is not going over well with many in the technology field, who say it will set back the country’s IT progress, rather than help it.

According to a report by ABES — the Brazilian Association of Software Companies — Brazil’s economy lost about $1.4 billion because of software piracy in 2000. The report also claims that 56 percent of all software currently used in Brazil is pirated.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance says Brazil is the world’s second greatest market for software piracy behind China.

The committee’s first target will be computer manufacturers and sellers, because “there have been many occurrences of illegal software being sold pre-installed in new computers,” said Adriana Hack Velho, an attorney specializing in Internet-related issues.

The automotive, chemical and transportation industries are also targets of the program.

“We’ll try to make pirates follow our copyright law and analyze how reasonable our current legislation is,” said Brazil Minister of Justice José Gregori.

“Piracy lowers job offers and damages the country’s economy and image,” Hack added, claiming the country is losing as much as $400 million in taxes and 40,000 jobs because of software piracy.

Through the first quarter of this year, the ABES campaign has seized more than 47,000 illegal CDs, which are often sold in the streets or the open markets of big cities’ downtowns.

“If our piracy level reaches 20 percent (the U.S. equivalent), we’d have more than 40,000 new jobs, and the government wouldn’t lose the current $400 million it’s been losing,” Hack said.

But many IT professionals think the government’s program is a wasted effort.

“It’s a good idea, but Brazil has much (more) important issues to follow. Why don’t they leave this for the software companies themselves?” asks Fernando Henrique de Oliveira, who works at Taito Intershop, an e-commerce site that sells licensed software and products.

Clóvis Monteiro, a committee member representing the Brazilian Federal Police, said the objective of the program is to investigate content producers, not the point-of-sale merchants.

“We’re not getting into the final user, though,” Monteiro said.

One problem with enforcement: Legal software in Brazil costs far more than many companies, and average computer users, can afford.

“Software has a price way superior than a company can pay, especially a small company/small businessman,” says Felipe Albuquerque Heidmann, who works at Gold Line Reven, a computer store in Porto Alegre.

Heidmann agrees that ABES must do something but also thinks users need to be more discerning. “Many people want specific applications just because everyone uses it,” he said. “But sometimes, other solutions do the same work at a lower price.”

Franz Josef Hildinger, a webmaster and former accountant in Sao Paulo, believes “sometimes piracy is not a condition, but a necessity.”

“It’s completely insane,” he said of the new initiative. “How can Brazilians have access to culture, information and leisure if these companies think they are in the U.S or Europe or think everyone is fairly paid?”

Marcos Narciso, a computer technician in Natal, thinks the initiative is looking at things the wrong way.

“Lowering the prices of essential software for companies would be a good start,” he said. “Most of the time, someone who copies software doesn’t intend to make money or damage anyone. They just don’t have the means to buy it (legally).”