Piracy for Brazilians is something so common that we hardly think that this act, in fact, is illegal. Nothing like buying that pirated DVD at a street vendor or downloading a movie from the Pirate Bay to watch with your girlfriend at the weekend, right? However, have you ever wondered if you could be punished for it?
There is an urban legend in our country that defines it as a criminal only those who profit from digital piracy. In other words, the belief that circulates by word of mouth is that only street vendors, counterfeiters, and websites that host this type of content are liable to legal punishment. However, that’s not quite how it works.
The STJ has reinforced more than once that the download of copyrighted works constitutes a crime. But why is nobody arrested or fined? Simple: cultural acceptance is so great that there is almost no type of inspection or punishment for the reproduction and distribution of this type of content.
Although Brazilians are, in a sense, free from legal punishment for downloading and free reproduction of copyrighted media, how does the rest of the world deal with this? Each country has its own legislation and form of inspection, which work in a different way from ours.
USA: the leader in the fight against piracy
The United States of America is the country that most creates maneuvers to prevent the disclosure and sharing of protected content. In case you don’t remember, they created SOPA and PIPA, bills that wanted to introduce serious fines for online piracy in US territory.
Currently, the aforementioned projects have been blocked due to the high resistance of the population and large companies, such as Facebook and Google. However, the fight against illegal reproduction and sharing is not over. The focus simply shifted from micro to macro. The government realized that punishing isolated users with massive fines is not the solution.
The American fight at the moment is looking for big distributors of illegal content. Since 2012, many websites have been shut down and there have been attempts to take down portals like The Pirate Bay – something they succeeded for a while – and others like it. Some isolated cases of individual punishments still happen, created by organizations that regulate the multimedia industry, such as the RIAA and MPAA (of music and films, respectively), but there is always an appeal.
The current punishment for downloaders is the Copyright Alert System. Basically, some people are monitored by internet providers and analyzed by the regulatory body in the area, be it music, movies, etc. The user can receive up to six alerts about infringing copyright law.
Basically, these warnings only serve to make the person downloading pirated content aware. However, depending on the case – actions may vary from company to company – internet providers may slow down your download speed, block the sites from which you download material, force you to watch educational videos, or complete a tutorial on “ how not to download illegal material”.
And in Europe, how does it work?
Many countries in the Old Continent have a warning system, mirroring the current American model. France, for example, has a body that monitors peer-to-peer networks – P2P – and sends emails to users who break the law. If the person continues to download these contents, a judge will assess the case and may impose a fine or suspend access to the internet. The imposition was promoted by the entertainment industry and former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Spain is a little more liberal on the subject. There is no monitoring of what happens on the internet, but if production companies find sites with content that infringes copyright, they can report it to the government. If the case is proven, the page can be removed. Despite being relatively peaceful, the legislation has met with a lot of popular resistance.
Protests against ACTA
In contrast, the United Kingdom still lacks a definitive rule on the subject. In 2010, Parliament approved the Digital Economy Act – Digital Economy Act –, a project that aimed to combat piracy there. However, several changes were made and there is nothing official about it. The only action the government takes is to send awareness letters to users who “break” the law.
The European response to sharing copyrighted works would come from ACTA, an association of several European states. Basically, the group, made up of 22 countries, aimed to create a standard for punishments. However, the European Union parliament vetoed the project in July 2012, as it threatened internet freedom.
But how do they know I’m breaking the law?
The crux of the matter is: how do countries know that a user downloads copyrighted works? Although it is very easy to find the download source for movies, music, and many other media, how can you identify the different seeds and leechers of torrents? After all, it’s impossible for the government to know about this without violating people’s privacy.
And that is precisely the answer. The most common case is for the government to have an agreement with the country’s own internet providers. In other words, the service you pay for is responsible for monitoring your activities on the network. Obviously, not everyone is monitored, and it definitely doesn’t happen all the time.
Operators take a sample of network traffic and monitor uploads and downloads that supposedly could be configured as piracy.
In some cases, the internet company itself takes care of everything, while, in other situations, there is a third-party company responsible for analyzing user data.
Germany: one of the most severe countries
If everything you’ve read so far seems a little extreme, it’s because you’re not familiar with the strict German laws on the subject. Basically, the country’s legislation is complied with to the letter, with data monitoring and steep fines. Since the beginning of the fight against piracy, in 2012, Germany – as well as Japan, another country that is strict with copyrights – was already studying ways to make the norm work.
As in other nations, people who download and upload files are monitored by third-party companies that analyze data traffic provided by internet providers. The analysis of web browsing is done by sampling, but if there is suspicion of illegal activity, the company can access whatever it wants.
If it is proven that you downloaded any copyrighted material, the company can sue the law agency representing the owner of this content and impose a very expensive fine. A friend of mine has been living in the country for a year and a half and recently received a letter for compensation of 971 euros (R$ 3,390) for downloading an episode of the last new season of “The Walking Dead”.
The biggest problem is that the person receiving the notification falls into a kind of fine mesh. Therefore, if she downloads more illegal files, other punishments will surely follow. In the period until the delivery of the letter to my friend’s house, he downloaded other movies and series. Despite ceasing illegal activities after receiving a fine, two more came, totaling more than R$ 10,000 in damages.
In that notification, there are specific details about the torrent client used, the exact download time, the file name, and much more.
If he decides to use a VPN network or download content through other services, such as Mega or Google Drive, the court can confiscate the computer to find out if there is any illicit activity.
In Germany, inspection works very well
Copyright infringement has become a way of doing business for many agencies and law firms in Germany. The inspection is so strong that the people themselves have already absorbed into their culture the habit of not downloading any type of torrent or digital media. The biggest problem is that the country lacked good alternatives to avoid downloading pirated content.
Netflix, for example, only arrived there in September last year. YouTube itself suffers from some content limitations, as the GEMA – Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte or, in English, Society for Rights over Musical Performance and Mechanical Reproduction – blocks many of the videos on the Google network.
Music clip blocked by GEMA
The alternative is to search for streaming services that work in the country, such as Amazon and now Netflix. Before these companies arrived in Germany, one solution was to go to a rental company and rent DVDs. Yes, renting movies is still a common practice there, largely due to the fight against piracy.
In Canada, there are practically no punishments
In contrast to the aforementioned nations, there are states that do not fit into this punitive framework adopted by the others. In Canada, for example, the most a user can receive is a warning saying: “You are downloading illegal content. Please stop”. And that’s all. No fines, lawsuits, or lawsuits.
Despite being a very rare situation, some production companies can take advantage of the situation and try to demand something around 3,000 Canadian dollars (R$ 7,500) so that the person is not prosecuted. However, there are no specific laws for digital piracy, so it’s just a bluff to make money. In other words, they try to scare people and gain compensation on top of it.
Even if there are no specific laws for the digital medium, the situation still falls under copyright infringement. Therefore, if the owner of the work really wants to proceed in court, it is possible to file a civil suit, that is, it does not yet qualify as a crime.
Australia: a changing market
Australia has a similar policy to Canada, but it could change later this year. Basically, there was no punishment for anyone who downloaded movies, music, and games from the internet – not even warnings. This situation occurred due to loopholes in Australian law, similar to Brazilian law. If you’re not making money from it, it’s up to the producer to go after those who infringe.
However, this scenario may change soon. The Australian entertainment industry is negotiating with the operators themselves to create a “friendly” three-warning system, similar to the model adopted in some European countries. If the user exceeds these three alerts in less than a year, the operator can inform the IP and user data of the copyright owners, facilitating the creation of a legal process.
Dallas Buyers Club was one of the films that production companies took issue with the Australian government over.
This possible agreement could happen so that film producers do not need to charge the government with a specific law that combats piracy. Despite not having anything defined, many people believe that the system may come into effect in 2015. However, this change should not affect people who use VPNs.
Why aren’t people sued often?
The question that remains in the air is: if the industry can go after those who infringe copyrights, why don’t we see this happen frequently? The answer is simple: looking for users who infringe on them consumes a lot of time and money, and often does not guarantee any results.
Searching for IPs that download movies, music, games, and other media can end up in a dead end. Many of these addresses result in Internet cafes, university computers – or computers for public use, in general –, homes of elderly people who barely know how to deal with technology (a grandchild or a visitor may have used WiFi to download), or residences of people who have already died.
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In Brazil, it is even more difficult for a production company to persecute users who purchase content protected by copyright. Basically, the Marco Civil da Internet protects user data, ensuring the privacy of Brazilians. Providers must keep the information for one year, while sites like Google and Facebook must keep it for six months.
Although your browsing log is stored, it is protected by law. In other words, providers – such as Vivo, Tim, NET, and others – only keep them for a legal case, such as an investigation of pedophilia, trafficking, etc. Therefore, if any company in the entertainment industry were to send a letter to someone, it would be infringing Brazilian law.
The fact that there is no inspection on national soil for this type of action does not make it legal.
Anyone who has access to works protected under copyright law without the owner’s permission violates law 9610 of 1998. Chapter II of this law – listed in articles 101 to 110 – provides for civil and criminal penalties for anyone who fails to comply with it. In addition, article 184 of the Brazilian penal code also deals with the subject, providing for fines and imprisonment for the infraction.
Is creating anti-piracy laws in third-world countries a solution?
Third-world countries or nations with emerging economies – such as Russia, Brazil, India, Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa etc – often top the world piracy rankings. Basically, they are the main targets of the big entertainment industries of the first world countries and the people behind the charge in the inspection.
Content producers claim that poorer countries lack education and social culture about copyright infringement. However, the problem may lie beyond our awareness: the cost of these products is much higher for poor people. A game might cost one – or a few – hours of labor for an American citizen, while the same item costs one or more weeks of labor in an African country, for example.
Instead of investing in campaigns, lawsuits, and lawsuits, why not simply make products cheaper in poorer countries? Unfortunately, things are not so simple. If producers adopted these measures, first-world countries would import the same items at a much cheaper price, seriously damaging the local market.
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However, even keeping prices high, companies still charge for monetary compensation from the most humble nations. The popularization of cheaper streaming services, such as Netflix, can help combat piracy. However, this will hardly be enough to put an end to illegal downloading in emerging countries, as well as severe laws. Perhaps, it is easier to admit that the problem is another.TecMundo discount coupons: