Country has plan against piracy
By Cristine Prestes, Josette Goulart and Thiago Vitale Jayme from São Paulo and Brasília, Valor Econômico - 02/03/2005
The scene is typical of Christmas Eve, Mother's Day or any other commercial date: trains of 500 buses cross the Friendship Bridge, over the Paraná River, which separates the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu from the Paraguayan Ciudad de Leste. All headed for Brazil, loaded with goods with values well above the limit of US $ 250,00 per person allowed by the IRS. The inspection, with very few technicians on site - always unarmed - and almost no police force, stops the first, the second and the third. But, under the pressure of smugglers organized in the crowd that is forming, there are no alternatives. This scenario is repeated in other Brazilian borders, by sea or by land, and the result is a flood of pirated products entering the country freely and putting it on the black list of nations that do not fight piracy.
Apparently, the Brazilian government is committed to leaving the list of these bad statistics. After suffering strong American pressure to take action, under penalty of retaliation, Brazil now has a National Plan to Combat Piracy. It was launched yesterday, in Brasília, with 92 topics proposing activities to combat the practices of smuggling, embezzlement and counterfeiting of goods. There are still many criticisms and points that are no longer addressed, but it is unanimous among those who follow or are part of the National Council to Combat Piracy that the project is serious. It remains to be seen whether it will leave the paper.
“This plan is the result of serious work, but it is worth remembering that concrete results are still lacking”, says Gustavo Leonardos, president of the Brazilian Intellectual Property Association (ABPI). "The debate was free and frank and I was impressed with such a large consensus among the most different bodies." Leonardos says this because the council is made up of representatives of the government, private initiative and civil society.
The main conclusion that all 28 council members have reached is that the difference in price between pirated and original products is the biggest incentive to buy counterfeits. "The council, including the industries, committed to work to bridge the gap between the price of originals and pirates," said Luiz Paulo Barreto, chairman of the board and executive secretary of the Ministry of Justice. The private sector understands that this will also mean a tax relief for the sectors that today suffer most from counterfeiting.
The effort to reduce the difference between prices is the economic aspect of the actions proposed by the board. There are two other streams of initiatives: that of education and that of greater enforcement and repression. In the first, clarification campaigns will be organized on the risks of buying pirated products. "It is necessary to show that fake shoes are bad for bone composition and can bring serious health problems", says Barreto. and there are still developments in the increase in crime. "The money obtained from the sale of counterfeit goods is used to purchase arms and finance drug trafficking," added the council president.
The third strand involves a greater number of police operations to dismantle piracy mafias, with the creation of specific divisions in the police to combat crime. It is at this point that society expects shorter-term action. This is because the deadline for all items to be put into practice is two years.
The lawyer specializing in the subject, José Henrique Vasi Werner, from Dannemann Siemsen, believes in the plan and is satisfied with the initiative but ponders some important points that cannot be left out. The main one is to increase the budget for hiring new inspectors, either in ports or land borders. "This has to be resolved as a priority," says Werner. A competition to hire new technicians and auditors has already been requested by the IRS, but has not yet obtained authorization from the Ministry of Planning. If approved, 2.000 new technicians and 1.500 new auditors will be selected for the IRS, and most of them already know that they will work to combat piracy.
Another effective point of combating piracy, in Werner's opinion, would be to transform the crime of counterfeiting into something similar to environmental crime, in which companies can be prosecuted for the crimes. "Thus, establishments can be closed, companies stop participating in tenders etc.", he says. “In other countries, homeowners are also held responsible if they allow counterfeiting practices to happen in the space they rent.”
The ABPI president says that many points were left out in the plan drawn up, but with the promise of being addressed at the next meeting, on March 17. "In some cases, there was no consensus, but we received the guarantee that all points would be discussed," says Gustavo Leonardos.
In the presentation of the plan, the executive secretary of the Ministry of Justice highlighted only a few main points among the 92 listed by the council. One of the most important would be the creation of a large database with information on piracy, linking government inspection bodies with state and federal police. In addition, the installation of specialized intellectual property courts will be negotiated with the Judiciary. This type of initiative is already being taken by some courts, as is the case of the Federal Regional Court (TRF) of the 2nd Region, which directs all cases related to intellectual property to specific groups.
The government will also work to improve the legislation in force on the subject. As an example of the need for adjustments to be made, Barreto recalls that, today, it is necessary to carry out expertise on each pirate object seized. "When you seize 500 CDs, it is a monumental job to make an individual report", he says. "The idea is to allow sampling expertise." The rest of the seized goods could be destroyed, which would help to empty part of the Federal Revenue and Federal Police deposits. The topic of piracy will be included in the curriculum of police and police training schools, and the council will also work with street vendors, seeking to replace the sale of counterfeit products with legal goods produced in Brazil.
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