The rapa


O Globo, 30/12/2004

For those who don't know, rapa is the city car that drives inspectors and police officers through the streets “to seize goods from unlicensed street vendors”, as the Houaiss Eletrônico dictionary says. At least on the streets of Rio, it is not uncommon to hear the alert of street vendors threatened by the proximity of the Law, shouting in a loud voice: “Look at the rapa!” - and whoever has the right to run, to avoid being detained for a few minutes and losing their products.

And this is still a remnant of the “romantic times of camelotage”. Today it is not so much, mainly because the coexistence between the men of the Law and the street vendors is much more tolerant and comrade, so to speak.

Well… this brief digression is about the farewell to this column, which over the past eight months has presented several aspects about the great piracy market in the country and in the world. With the warning about the problems that piracy brings to the economy of countries - especially those in the periphery, like us - it is time to move on. It's time to shave off ...

Before that, the column thanks the collaboration of several sources - each one defending their side, of course - and the multiple criticisms it received during that time. If not all of them were answered, it was due to lack of time.

Of the hundreds of emails that reached the column - including messages sent through the Globo Online website ( - a good part claimed that companies have their fair share of blame for piracy, basically for stimulating rampant consumption and for not offering affordable prices to all segments of the population. It is a very frequent criticism in relation to goods such as clothing, CDs and DVDs, for example. Those who do not have R $ 25 for an original CD, pay ten reais for three pirates on the corner. As music is increasingly a perishable, short-lived product, the pirate CD resists at least until the favorite artist goes out of style. And those who don't have Nike hunt with Naike ...

Companies in various sectors, in turn, claim high spending on research and product development, and hence their prices. And they say that the issue of piracy would be more related to a certain "lack of honesty" by the consumer in general.

Companies also complain about something important: high taxation by the government, which directly influences the final price of products to the consumer. But the government does not seem to realize that high taxation does not necessarily mean higher revenue. Experiences in São Paulo, reported here, have already shown that consumers are able to choose the legal product, if the price to be paid is consistent.

The companies also demand from the government more vigorous actions by the inspection and repression agencies against contraband, tax evasion and theft of goods. Some argue that this is legitimate, as it means government spending to protect purely private interests, with no public benefit. It is a discussion that goes far.

The column spoke to government sectors that, for their part, recognize their limitations and plan to put in place, in the coming months, actions that could reduce the problem of piracy in the country. It will not be an easy task, considering that there is a lack of investments in technology and personnel, in addition to greater exchange between public agencies and, one of the great knots in the country, a more agile Justice.

Another issue involving the government is its (in) capacity to negotiate with friendly countries - mainly those of Mercosur - and to articulate with them a permanent and joint action against piracy.

It should not be forgotten that the United States, sheriffs in world trade, is putting strong pressure on countries that give piracy a chance. This could mean billion-dollar losses for the country's economy.

The Brazilian legislature has already shown itself repeatedly concerned with the matter and has done its part - it is a more than commendable effort, rare when it comes to the legislature. The formation of an exclusive inter-ministerial committee to combat piracy, in itself, is a positive point. When you start to work, it will certainly be better.

Anyway, the message is given: piracy is the economy of illusion. As I said here, when a consumer chooses to buy a counterfeit or smuggled product, it looks like he is getting a good product, it looks like he is creating jobs, it looks like he is contributing to the country's economy. But it is all illusion. In the long run, the result is negative for several sectors. Better not pay to see.

The column also cannot fail to mention an interesting discovery: that of reader Edson Barreto, an observer of the day-to-day life of Rio's streets, who wrote dozens of good stories about street vendors and street commerce in Rio. It is piracy, who I would say, collaborating positively for the revival of the boring chronic carioca.

And the most important: that 2005 is a very, very good year for everyone.