Brazil is wrapping up a consultation and it is apparently going out wit a bang. A coalition of 28 academic, educational, consumer, musical and digital cultural organizations have called on the government to legalize file-sharing through a blanket licensing system.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
Brazil is making headlines today because of a large push to legalize file-sharing. It’s thanks to a blog post on VGrass. The coalition is focused on a slogan, “Compartilhamento legal! R$3,00 de todos para tudo,”. In essence, they want to make non-commercial forms of file-sharing legal in exchange for a small fee for ISP subscriptions.
Such a move would quickly put to end a more than a decade long war between rights holders and their customers. Brazil isn’t the first to float such an idea. During Canada’s copyright consultation, instituting a blanket levy on ISPs was one suggestion made by many, but as we know now thanks to the tabling of Canada’s copyright bill, the suggestion fell on deaf ears as the government focused more on demands from foreign industry representatives who demanded anti-circumvention laws that would override fair use. The SAC in Canada, was one such vocal proponent of a levy on ISPs and their proposal can still be read online.
Similarly, in the US, the Electronic Frontier Foundation proposed a similar plan. Unfortunately, because the US is home to the RIAA and MPAA, getting traction for the plan is rather difficult.
The case in Brazil is interesting because the standard response to what the US would call “weak” copyright laws, at least, as far as some countries such as Canada is concerned, is to pressure the US government to put trade sanctions on that country – or, at least, put a PR campaign in place in that country to say copyright is a trade barrier. So what’s the trade situation like between Brazil and the US? Not good.
Earlier this year, Brazil put trade sanctions on US goods in retaliation to illegal subsidies on Brazilian cotton farmers. It’s not hard to imagine that if the US threatens the country with more sanctions, it’s possible that the Brazilian government would just become that much more bitter towards the US more than anything else.
If Brazil’s government really does consider implementing something like legalizing file-sharing, it’s entirely possible that all the US can do about it is scream at them through well debunked watch-lists and worsen the trade relationship between the two countries. Meanwhile, the country will get a chance to see what happens if the internet is treated like the CD as far as copyright is concerned.