Portugal: File Sharing For Personal Use Is Legal And IP Addresses Are Not People (Techdirt)
Friday September 28th, 2012
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. 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".
“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.”
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"?