Brazil: Cybercrime law could restrict fundamental rights, Internet openness

Ellery Biddle – Global Voices, 11/08/2011

International Free Software Forum 2011, Porto Alegre. By Anon DePlume. CC BY-SA.

Pending in Brazil’s House of Representatives is a proposed cybercrime law [pt] that could criminalize many ordinary online activities and that would mark an abrupt shift in Brazil’s progressive digital policy environment. The Committee on Science and Technology will vote on the bill on November 9, 2011.

Under the proposed law, PL 84/99, sponsored by Representative Eduardo Azeredo, courts could apply criminal penalties to activities like file sharing, peer-to-peer communications, and the fair use of copyrighted works. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and sites like YouTube and Flickr could become liable for unlawful content posted by their users. And ISPs, email service providers, and other Internet intermediaries would be obligated to collect and retain users’ personal data for extended periods of time. Scholars, civil society leaders, and advocates for digital rights have spoken out against the bill, arguing that the law would interfere with citizens’ rights to free expression and privacy and restrict the openness of the Brazilian Internet.

Researchers at the Centro do Tecnología e Sociedade [pt] (Center for Technology and Society) of the Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil’s premier social science research institution, have circulated ample analysis calling attention to problems in the bill. Mega Não [pt], a collective of digital rights activists and scholars who advocate for Internet openness and strong online privacy laws, worked with stakeholders to compose a 2008 petition [pt] illustrating the bill’s problems and urging legislators to vote against it. The petition emphasized the importance of balancing the nation’s security interests with fundamental rights and the broader trajectory of Brazil’s information society:

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