Portuguese Prosecutors Say File Sharing Is Legal

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Anti-piracy organisation’s bid to block file sharing backfires in Portugal

Portuguese prosecutors have ruled that file sharing is legal in the Iberian country as long as the copyrighted material downloaded is for personal use.

The ruling is a massive blow for local anti-piracy organisation ACAPOR, which had demanded that action be taken against 2,000 alleged file sharers.

Members of the organisation wearing “Piracy is illegal” t-shirts delivered the IP addresses of the alleged pirates to the Department of Investigation and Penal Action (DIAP) last year. The move has backfired spectacularly on the movie industry-backed ACAPOR, which has criticised the decision.

Portuguese file sharing

“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,” read the decision.

Prosecutors added that the right to culture, education and freedom of expression on the Internet should not be restricted in cases where copyright infringements are clearly non-commercial. Adding insult to injury for ACAPOR, it was also ruled that IP addresses were not sufficient evidence to identify a person accused of file sharing.

Finally, the prosecutor said that even if file sharing for personal use was considered to be illegal, artists should explicitly state they are not authorising their material to be copied for personal use.

ACOPAR has expressed its disappointment and claimed that dropping the case was the easiest decision for DIAP to make. It also accused prosecutors of adapting the law for their own interests.

The Swiss government ruled last December that downloading pirated music, movies and video games from the Internet for personal use was to continue to be legal, but uploading such materials was to remain a crime.

A report published by the Swiss Federal Council stated that copyright holders wouldn’t suffer because downloaders eventually spend the money saved on other entertainment products.

This is in stark contrast to the UK, where Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been placed under pressure by industry bodies to block access to file sharing sites.

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