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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Portugal Court Ruled File-Sharing Legitimate

When it comes to file-sharing issues in courts, the community is always ready for the worst. However, the Portugal case makes an exception. Last year, ACAPOR (one of the local advocacy groups) has sent the IP addresses of two thousand alleged copyright infringers to the Attorney General. The outfit hoped that they the pirates would be prosecuted, but the result surprised everyone…

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Surprisingly enough, a Portuguese prosecutor decided not to follow on the people behind the IP addresses. Instead, a statement was made that it was absolutely legal to share file on non-commercial basis. In addition, IP addresses can’t be enough to launch a lawsuit against the suspected pirates.

A year ago, ACAPOR provided the Attorney General with 2,000 IP-addresses of suspected pirates while wearing T-shirts saying “Piracy is illegal”. The outfit claimed it was doing its best to alert the authorities to the very serious situation in the content industry. It believed that a thousand complaints per month should be enough to embarrass the judiciary system. But their hopes appeared in vain after the Department of Investigation and Penal Action investigated complaints and took a decision not to charge individuals involved in the case.

It said that from a legal point of view, taking into consideration the fact that alleged users were both uploaders and downloaders, this conduct was seen absolutely legitimate, even if the users continue file-sharing after the download is finished. Moreover, one’s rights for online education, freedom of expression and culture should be respected if no commercial copyright violation is involved in the case.

In addition, the statement of many experts was supported, saying that an IP address does not necessarily indicate the infringer, because there may be another individual behind it, not the one in whose name the service is registered, regardless of whether the real owner of IP address using it or not.

Of course, ACAPOR wasn’t happy with this decision, claiming that the prosecutors simply found a way to adapt the legislation to their interest. They might be right, because it is in no-one’s interest to have to send thousands of letters, hear thousands of people and investigate thousands of PCs.

Industry observers hope that this ruling will set a precedent and an example to other countries that tend to take side of the content industry in such lawsuits.

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