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.
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.
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.