Mac Margolis – The Daily Beast, 11/21/2013
Thanks to an arcane law, the country’s rich and famous are able to block publication of books on their lives—but the Supreme Court may be set to loosen the publishing stranglehold.
Like torture and curfews, book banning in Brazil went out with the military dictatorship almost 30 years ago. Back then, intellectuals, artists, and politicians hailed the end of the long night of authoritarian rule (1964 to 1985) with a burst of creativity and civic commotion. É proibido proibir—“Prohibition is prohibited,”—proclaimed singer and songwriter Caetano Veloso, who was censored under the military and spent years in exile. Veloso’s slogan became the meme for the new era of democratic liberty.
Funny how things change. Yes, the generals are back in their barracks, and Brazilians are free to gather, protest, and freely elect their leaders. But book banning is still in fashion. And it’s totally legal, thanks to Articles 20 and 21 of Brazil’s civil code. The arcane pair of paragraphs are packed with the sort of yawn-provoking polysyllables that only a lawyer could love. In plain language, the 2002 law is a bombshell that essentially strangles freedom of expression by ruling out the publication of any biography that has not been expressly authorized by its subject. Remarkably, much of the support for the new wave of book banning now comes from some of the same artists and celebrities who rebelled against the official muzzle decades before, but who have grown rich and famous since, and have claimed they own their own stories.