Technological advances, Internet-based global communication, population increase and socioeconomic factors in Latin American countries could be some of the reasons why piracy is still a complex issue and an increasingly worrying concern which, unquestionably, has an impact on different types of authors, artists, writers and producers, among others, and, on the national economy in that it reduces tax collection, the capacity to generate employment and other benefits.

For instance, the percentage of pirate software has unfortunately grown both in Latin America and on a global scale, with a 3% increase compared to the 35% piracy rate of previous years.

The countries that registered the highest levels of piracy in 2007 were Venezuela (87%), Paraguay (82%) and Nicaragua (80%), whilst Colombia (58%), Brazil (59%) and Costa Rica (61%)  registered the lowest percentages.

To face the recent surge in piracy rates, Latin American countries have had to join forces (not only with other Latin American countries) to bolster their efforts to fight this crime.

As a result, negotiations have been held on piracy-related issues in different international trade agreements, such as the WTO Agreement, specifically the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which establishes the procedures enacted to monitor intellectual property rights.

Furthermore, piracy is currently a hot topic in the Free Trade Agreement that is currently being debated between the US and Colombia.

In addition, Mexico and the US have also met to define the different strategies that they can implement to stop piracy in each of their countries in the framework of their national legislations.

A few years ago, some Latin American countries started to take specific action against piracy. For instance, in 1995, Colombia set up a strategic alliance between the public and private sector under the name ANTI-PIRACY CONVENTION FOR COLOMBIA, which aims to avoid this type of illegal actions regarding copyright-protected works, and intellectual property-protected assets.

Peru, on the other hand, has recently developed a raft of procedures envisaged by the Customs and Trademarks offices, which have joined forces to stop piracy (contrary to the Venezuelan case, where there is no inter-agency cooperation) and avoid imports of illegal products, mainly from China.

In this sense, the Superintendence for Tax Administration has issued an internal procedure (INTA-IT.00.08) whereby copyright holders can register with the institution to ensure the Superintendence duly monitors imports. INDECOPI informs stakeholders about imported products that could affect their rights.

Although Uruguay does not have an official administrative procedure to register a trademark at the customs office, the authorities act “ex officio” by contacting the lawyer in charge of handling the trademark in question to provide information on confiscated products and verify their authenticity. 

Finally, Brazil used to have a very high piracy index but, as aforementioned, has bumped down their rates notably, partly thanks to the implementation of the National Council against Piracy and Intellectual Property Crimes (CNCP), answerable to the Ministry of Justice.

Brazil’s greatest achievement has been to finally be removed from the “notorious markets” list produced by the US. As part of the plan to fight infringing products, the CNCP allow the institutions in charge of monitoring products and compliance with anti-piracy regulations to access a central database containing information on registered trademarks and their owners and/or lawyers.

In sum, in Latin America, awareness to stop piracy is growing not only at a governmental level (implementation of measures to counter this crime), but also on a social and cultural level. The consumer public is now more aware of piracy being a crime.

However, there is still a long road ahead and piracy rates are still alarming, even in countries like Brazil, where figures have dropped significantly.

In this sense, it is important to strengthen inter-institutional mechanisms in each country (i.e., cooperation between customs offices and trademarks and copyrights offices), raise social awareness, and consolidate efforts by means of international treaties.

This is a very sensitive issue, since every time someone purchases an illegal software, film or book they are attacking the economic welfare of thousands of families whose livelihood depends on the culture industry, and damaging the labour market and the economic sector of society.