Combating Brazil’s Black Market

By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Every day tens of thousands of Reais of pirated goods – from computer software and DVDs to trainers and clothing – are sold on the streets of Rio. Focused around the SAARA covered market of Uruguiana in Centro, it’s a black market industry worth billions of dollars, but figures released last week show that the authorities are slowly stemming the flow.

Poor quality pirate copies of the latest films like these cost the movie industry millions of dollars every year, photo by Christian Latruc.

Between 2004 and 2010, Brazilian revenue authorities confiscated over R$6 billion of illegal goods. The National Council against Piracy and Intellectual Property Crimes (CNCP), a public/private body created within the framework of the Ministry of Justice back in October 2004, has taken the initiative in the fight against the illegal trade, and with the release of the new figures council president Rafael Favetti is confident they are winning.

“Piracy is down, even with the economy booming along,” he told Agência Brasil news agency. “Consumers are beginning to understand that there is a downside to illegal goods.”

The border with Paraguay is a major cause for concern for Brazilian and indeed American authorities with the bulk of goods passing across the Paraná River into the country and throughout Latin America. Indeed Paraguay is consistently one of the biggest culprits in global piracy, and the American software industry estimates annual losses resulting from Paraguayan piracy at nearly $14 million.

Anybody who has fallen foul of the R$5 DVD and CD software sellers that litter the streets with their temporary stalls and below-par copies would certainly agree, but there remains an incredibly flagrant flouting of international copyright law and not just tucked away down side alleys but on the city’s busiest and most heavily-patrolled streets.

Nike's much-copied official Brazil clothing line, photo by Cheleguanaco/Fickr Creative Commons License.

The solutions have been imaginative and produced some success. Nike, official manufacture of the Brazilian national football shirt, know more than many the price of piracy, with literally hundreds of thousands of fake items sold during the World Cup. The initiative to manufacture a lower-cost alternative to the main replica shirt and retail it at a more competitive price shows the power being wielded over even these huge companies.

The fact that football shirts, CDs and DVDs are often seen as vastly over-priced has in the past lent to a romantic ideal of the purchase illegal copies combating greedy companies and even providing jobs for many of the city’s poor. The connections to organized crime, however, lend a far more serious undertone to what is perceived as casual or petty crime.

Next month sees the release of the highly anticipated Tropa de Elite 2 film sequel, the first installment of which was on sale on Brazil’s streets months before its cinema release, damaging, if not altogether squashing audience figures in the cinema. Shrouded in secrecy and with no pre-release copies yet in circulation, such an enforced response could in fact damage the movie’s release more than the huge hype that accompanied the first.

5 Responses to "Combating Brazil’s Black Market"

  1. Diego  September 24, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    I love Uruguiana. Seriously… why would i pay R$150 for an official Botafogo shirt when i can go there and spend R$20..? Why pay R$300 for authentic skate shoes when i can pay R$30 for a bootleg pair..? And i find it hard to be sympathetic for Nike and software manufacturers…

    Although the violent lawlessness that plagues Brazil is a problem… i have to admit, that the black market of goods found at places like Uruguiana – is a positive aspect of Brazil..!

    And i love the street vendors all over the city – in Lapa… Ipanema… outside the football stadiums. These chaotic scenes are what gives Rio and Brazil its flavor. If i wanted to live in a sterile and ‘organized’ place, i would live in Sweden or Switzerland.

    The so called ‘choque de ordem’ should be against people urinating in the street… flanelinhas… and most importantly, against the corrupt politicians. But leave the street vendors alone…

  2. Lilly  September 28, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    How can one possibly call someone corrupt if condoning corruption? The violent lawlessness that plagues Brazil is partly supported by the black market. I find a huge mistake to have some saying that the mess which afflicts the country is actually a good thing.

    So sorry, you can’t have it both ways. It seems to me that these thoughts may come from people who benefits from the mess. Most Brazilians though would think otherwise and would be happy leaving in a more organized country with no corruption.

    An organized Scandinavian example is Denmark, and it is the happiest in the world and virtually corruption free.

    Give me a right to stay and work and I would move there in no time, but no I’m Brazilian and most first world countries are rather wary of us exactly because corruption is so ingrained into parts of our culture.
    .
    Funnily enough I do not like corruption and never did and most Brazilian I know think the same, so please do not say that our faults is our charm and that is OK, for us it isn’t!

  3. Diego  October 6, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    Scandinavian countries also have amongst the world’s highest suicide rates… while Brazil, despite it’s many problems, is one of the world’s happiest countries – even in the favelas, people have fun and know how to party…

    But in response to your comment, yes… i can have it both ways. The world is not black and white – and enjoying the experience and chaos and fun of places like Uruguiana and ‘illegally’ sold capirinhas in Lapa – is hardly equal to the blatant corruption of politicians who steal public money, which is supposed to be invested in public health and education…

    Do you really want all of Rio to be like Barra da Tijuca – full of fake people pretending to be American..?

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