Portugal: File Sharing For Personal Use Is Legal And IP Addresses Are Not People

from the holy-sanity,-batman dept

In a move that should remind you of Spain's ruling that personal file-sharing was legal, before America's entertainment industry helpfully wrote the Spanish people a new law (wait…what!!?!?), file-sharing for personal use has been declared legal in Portugal. How could something so monumental happen, you wonder? Well, funny story: the entertainment industry made it happen.

The tale goes something like this. An anti-piracy group sponsored by the entertainment industry called ACAPOR got all uppity about Portuguese filesharing a year ago and decided to helpfully deliver boxes (yes, physical boxes) of IP addresses suspected of filesharing infringing files to Portugal's Attorney General's office. They did this while wearing shirts that proclaimed “Piracy is illegal” in case anyone thought they were there for a cause that is actually useful and/or interesting.

“We are doing anything we can to alert the government to the very serious situation in the entertainment industry,” ACAPOR commented at the time, adding that “1000 complaints a month should be enough to embarrass the judiciary system.”

Secure in their knowledge that justice would be done, ACAPOR's minions then went home and did whatever it is these kinds of people do when they aren't making fantastic amounts of noise and generally making fools of themselves.

Well, as is their duty, the folks at the Attorney General's office did look through the boxes of evidence ACAPOR had provided…and promptly threw them out.

The Department of Investigation and Penal Action (DIAP) looked into the complaints and the prosecutor came back with his order this week. Contrary to what the anti-piracy group had hoped for, the 2,000 IP-addresses will not be taken to court. Worse for ACAPOR, the prosecutor goes even further by ruling that file-sharing for personal use is not against the law.

“From a legal point of view, while taking into account that users are both uploaders and downloaders in these file-sharing networks, we see this conduct as lawful, even when it’s considered that the users continue to share once the download is finished.”

Oops. Turns out those “Piracy is illegal” shirts are as ill-informed about the law in Portugal as the people wearing them. Especially since, for good measure, the AG informed ACAPOR that IP addresses are not people, so their evidence wasn't so much “evidence” as it was “a horrific waste of time and trees”.

Now, not one to let facts get in the way of saying something stupid, ACAPOR boss Nuno Pereira pushed back on the AG's office.

“Personally I think the prosecutors just found a way to adapt the law to their interest – and their interest is not having to send 2,000 letters, hear 2,000 people and investigate 2,000 computers,” Pereira says.

Sure, that makes sense. Everyone knows if you're looking to avoid having to send letters and do paperwork, becoming a lawyer is the way to go. But did you really expect an anti-piracy group to take a sane thumping gracefully?

Of course, as we’ve seen elsewhere, whenever a country reacts sensibly concerning things like file sharing, the entertainment industry lobbying engine revs right back up… and suddenly the countries are described by US politicians in the worst possible terms. Any bets on whether or not Portugal just wrote itself onto the USTR’s Special 301 list and the Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus’ “watch list”?

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Companies: acapor

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Comments on “Portugal: File Sharing For Personal Use Is Legal And IP Addresses Are Not People”

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44 Comments
G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hilarious

Well our LLB (Legum Baccalaureus) is erroneously called a “Bachelor of Legal Letters” by all and sundry in Australia (and Canada/UK too I believe). Mainly due to the double L in the acronym.

Though it might be erroneous it makes perfect sense when you realise exactly what the law (especially Civil) is all about and how much reading of old tomes, writing, being bored out of your skull, and what a general time sink letters are in the pursuit of ‘law’.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Injustice!

ACAPOR boss Nuno Pereira says:

?Personally I think the prosecutors just found a way to adapt the law to their interest ? and their interest is not having to send 2,000 letters, hear 2,000 people and investigate 2,000 computers,? Pereira says.

What he wants is:

Personally I think that ACAPOR just found a way to adapt the law to their interest – and their interest is in sending 2,000 letters, collecting 2,000 settlements and not having to investigate 2,000 computers and the individuals behind them nor provide a shred of actual evidence.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

> > 10 years ago they decriminalized drug use only to
> > see drug use in their country decline.

> Drug use didn’t decline, but the crimes attached to
> drug use (robbery, assault, etcetera) did. By a lot.

It then follows that decriminalizing* copyright infringement will not cause infringement to decline, but the crimes attached to infringement will decline by a lot (bribery, corruption, closed door meetings, laws written in secrecy, SOPA, ACTA, TPP, seizing domain names without evidence, settlement letters directed to IP addresses, mass John Doe lawsuits, etc).

* copyright infringement is supposed to be a civil matter, not a criminal matter

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So, your criteria on how well IP law is working in a country is whether or not people who don’t live in the country enjoy it (I presume you mean ignorant Americans like yourself who would ignore anything in Portuguese, right, and thus create a skewed marketplace for it?)? Does that mean that American IP law is working well since Hollywood pushes its crap worldwide?

Funny how your criteria is not only ridiculous but changes depending on what you’re talking about at the time…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This “without copyright there’ll be no creation” mantra is plain fear mongering from the corporate entities that lost their distribution control that previously justified their value.

The common sense that it’s the technical innovation of phonographs that spawned a whole new market for music and their ability to leverage it for mass distribution that was their added value is turned on its head. Why ? To hide the inconvenient truth their physical distribution trade no longer matters and they can’t justify taking such a large cut of the actual creators right any longer either. They just try to sanctuarize the rights they’ve managed to capture from the creators in the past.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Naturally, it is hard for a Portuguese speaking author to have a significant expressing in the English speaking world.

But, if you weren’t completely ignorant, you would acknowledge that many Portuguese authors enjoy much success in Portuguese speaking countries, and sometimes, even in other countries.

Many of our best singers and musicians (Tony Carreira, Quim Barreiros, etc.) consistently make venues sell out in Portugal. Also, ever heard of Jos? Saramago, the Nobel Prize winner? What about Manoel de Oliveira, the 100+ year-old film director of international acclaim?

We have a healthy community of artists, and that is all that matters, in the end, correct? Because our laws are not meant to protect YOUR interests, they are meant to protect ours.

PaulT (profile) says:

To repeat my usual comments here – let’s see, is Portugal a country that’s well served by legal options or is it a country lacking legal options? What a surprise, even mainstream services like Spotify aren’t available there.

Yet again, the industry might want to think about offering legal options before they whine that people find ways to obtain content they can’t legally obtain…

Anonymous Coward says:

one of the best and most sensible pieces of news i have read in ages. what a shame other countries dont follow suit. i bet Portugal will be top of the ‘naughty boy’ country list now, the ridiculous USA 301 list. that list needs to be stuffed right up the arse of the fucking moron that thought it up and then shredded! yes. in that order!!

ace says:

portuguese courts

Everyone who lives in Portugal knows the court system is backed up for years; cases that get appealed [most cases do if there’s any money involved] can take 20 years to get a final decision.

There is a lot of pressure to clear the case backlog, so why would the prosecutor’s office want to take on 2000 nuisance cases in this struggling economy?

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Mr Geigner

Tim, always a pleasure reading your articles. Another great one and the way you present things is so true of the maximalists in general.

As an aside, I wish I still had my insider badge so I could join the chat (don’t have spare money atm, going through grad school). So I wanted to say here and hope you see it that I finally got to read Midwasteland. I really enjoyed the book, and thank you for sending me the PDF awhile back.

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