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Rio | Beginning of the End for Black Market Taxes?

Judicial Police in action against militia members

Judicial Police in action against militia members, November 2009

G1 reports on the sensational feat  of locking up dozens of military police for organizing themselves into what amount to militia groups — protection racketeering, mostly.

Agents from the Sub-Secretariat of Intelligence of the state security secretariat and the internal affairs agency of the military police, in coordination with GAECO, the state prosecutor’s special organized crime task force, last night began an operation designed to arrest a gang of criminals — most of the military police — who were extorting street merchants and informal van services in Bangu, in the Western Zone, and neighboring areas.

Of the 78 persons charged by the state prosecutor, 59 are policement: 53 from the military police and six from the state judicial police. The policemen involved worked out of different units: the 14 Miltary Police Battalion (BPM)(Bangu), the 9th BPM (Rocha Miranda), the 31st DP (Bangu) and officers assigned to the task force on crimes against intellectual property, designed to combat street vendors.

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Brazil: Federal Police Bust Google Exec

The CEO of Google Brasil, Fábio José Silva Coelho, was arrested by federal police this afternoon in São Paulo, based on an arrest warrant issued by elections tribunal judge Amaury da Silva Kuklinski of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Kuklinski ordered the arrest based on the argument that Google failed to remove videos posted to YouTube opposing the reelection campaign of Campo Grande mayor;

Google claims that users are responsible for the content of the video and for this reason could not comply with the court order.

Source: Estadão.com.br.

The degree of tutelage exercised by elections courts here never ceases to perplex.

«Uncle Sam Wants You» | Clóvis Rossi

Veteran Folha de S. Paulo columnist Clóvis Rossi reports on efforts to increase the flow of academic exchanges between the U.S. and Brazil.

I translate a selection.

In Dilma’s case, the American hunger for Brazilian exchange students matches the president’s own appetites: she has adopted the program as a personal priority and trumpeted it in all the countries she has visited.

For those who have not heard of the program, Science Without Borders seeks to promote the consolidation, expansion and internationalization of science and technology, driving Brazilian innovation and competition through academic exchange and international mobility.

Finding qualified applicants for the government program is managed by the Institute of International Education, about which more later.  Continue reading

Anti-Free Cultural Ana | Scenes from a Cultural Cold War

Some ill-sorted notes on the New World Lusophone culture wars follow.

Last weekend [— as of January 25, 2011–] Culture minister Ana de Hollanda was harshly criticized by Twitterers for deciding to withdraw the Creative Commons license from the ministry’s Web site. The development was seen by defenders of digital content sharing as a declaration of war on copyleft, as well as a realignment of policy with conservative views of Brazilian intellectual property law.

Other government sites, such as the Blog do Planalto — the Brazilian federal presidency — remain covered by Atribuição-Compartilha Igual 2.5 Brasil (CC BY-SA 2.5), «except where explicitly otherwise provided».

(Point of ignorance remaining: How does the Brazil-specific version of this license differ from the model license developed by the law guys at Stanford and Harvard?)

A fairly recent article by Larry Rohter of the New York Times, featuring private-sector sponsorship of cultural programs by such public-private entities as SESC — we have a number of friends who earn income for their art from the São Paulo chapter of this agency — left me wondering.

Why, for example, did Brazil’s culture ministry last year withdraw its support for the Creative Commons licensing of ministry-produced and -distributed content? What has this decision had to do with a — chronically — pending bill reforming a 1998 law on copyright and authorial rights, if any?

Consider the following.

In general, tackling the native cultural bureaucracy is in itself something of a mind-bending task.

The vast bulk of Brazilian culture-industrial production is not economically independent; it suffers from oligopoly on one hand — Globo and its NET cable and broadband operation — and surreal Kafkaesque-Brechtian hunger artistry on the other.

The opening titles of domestically produced films roll on forever, like the opening titles of the Star Wars saga, with names of government agencies, non-governmental organizations and corporate sponsors attracted by the Rouanet law and its corporate tax incentives. Cable channels struggle to comply with, and quietly lobby hard against, quotas favoring domestic production.

And so, what, if anything, has this controversial move had to do with calls for the Minister’s removal, so far unheeded, if any?

An extensive article in issue No. 182 of Caros Amigos describes a Culture minister, Anna de Hollanda, suffering «cross-fire from all sides», including the ruling PT and its legislative base, for abandoning the cultural policy of the previous minister.

The consecrated musician Gilberto Gil, who served as MiniCult from 2003-2008, had championed adherence to the Creative Commons and Free Software movements and has notably made some — though not all — of his own creative work available with CC licensing, styling himself “the hacker-minister”.

I translate:

On March 11, 2007, the New York Times dedicated an article to the efforts of minister Gil with respect to «making copyright more flexible». The article, “Gilberto Gil Hears the Future, Some Rights Reserved” … praises Gil for the alliance formed with Creative Commons in 2003, one of his first actions as Minister. “My personal view is that digital culture brings with it a new notion of intellectual property and that this culture of sharing should inform government policy.”

Among the main subjects of criticism of the current Culture regime is the charge that Anna serves the interests of ECAD, the Brazilian ASCAP-equivalent, rather than the public interest. But why is this policy — deemed purely symbolic even by many of its detractors — at the center of the debate? From the P2P Foundation blog on the topic,

For practical purposes this [policy shift] is fairly meaningless. But symbolically the act — for maximum effect timed to break at the Campus Party Brasil 2011 in Sao Paulo, one of the largest hacker events in Latin America, — cannot be taken other than as a thundering battle cry against free culture »

Among other critics, the P2P Foundation has run a colorful and venomous indictment of these policy shifts under the rubric of national pride and sovereignty, calling the Brazilian collaborators of the Berkman Center «fifth columnists» for tech and infotainment multinationals.

The hillarious twist of these … statements is that CC is a foreign organisation, funded by mega-corporations, the spearhead of Internet companies that don’t want to pay for copyrights, and that has FGV as its Fith Column inside Brazil whose Ronaldo Lemos is the legal project lead of CC-BR, out to annihilate Brazilian artists …

“It is absolutely shameful to accept that the content published on the site of a Brazilian government agency, maintained with public money, has to be “licensed” by an foreign entity, sponsored by mega-speculator George Soros (Open Society Foundation), the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation (Hewlett-Packard Company), the Rockefeller Foundation and also by Microsoft, Google, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo and other corporations of the same strain, assisted in Brazil by the globalized neoliberal FGV. … Congratulations to Mrs. Minister and Mrs. President of the Republic, for having restored the sovereignty of our cultural management, annulling the subservient measures taken by those who, while looking modern and libertarian, only intended to bend the spine to the interests of large corporations, seeking to monopolize culture.” (Venício Marco Andrade, conductor and composer)

(FGV’s partner in the Cultura Livre project is the Ford Foundation, which also funds the Observatório da Imprensa press watchdog Web site. Above, the project’s «network neighborhood» …)

And NB: Like it or not, arguments from «ufanismo» — patriot games — are often effective with certain influential audiences when it comes to culture and industry «Made in the USA».

In a nutshell, then, as far as I can figure, by arguing that cultural funders and entrepreneurs are free to negotiate licensing agreements under the basic law of contracts, Hollanda is accused of placing a finger on the scale of cultural production in favor of corporate multinational culture-industrial complexes.

(Software counts as cultural production, by the way; there seems to be little disagreement on that point.) On her watch, the ministry’s budget has been cut by 39%, blame for which has been laid at her doorstep as well — she is said to not play nice with legislators.

Inside the ministry, there seems to be something of a cold war between permanent civil servants and the current governming party.

The current director of digital culture policy @ culturadigital.br, for example, is the former Brazil editor of Global Voices Online, permanent civil servant José Murilo — who doubles as the editor of a Google group known as the Imaginary News and Nonsense Agency, and as the worldwide Web master of the Santo Daime ayahuasca cult.

This is one very odd fellow … even odder, perhaps, than myself, but then again, I do not function as a public policy point man liaising with the reality-based community. Murilo blogs at http://ecodigital.blogspot.com.br/

The Vargas Foundation Web site Cultura Livre hosts the following critique of the policy change retiring CC licensing from the Minstry’s content. «We express …

… our extreme discomfort with the changes in the field of cultural policies, annulling eight years of accumulated discussions and advancements that gave visibility and a role in dialogue to a Ministry that hitherto had been subordinate. Frustrating those who saw the symbolism of appointing the first woman to Minister of Culture of Brazil as a victory, this administration quickly undertook to deconstruct not only the achievements of the previous administration, but especially the original, rich and productive environment of debate that had been established.»

Well, I have made an attempt to collect notes and try to answer my own questions — or at least, to frame them more precisely. That will have to do for now. What is the takeaway?

Luis Nassif has collected statements from artists in support of Minister Ana.

It is utterly shameful to accept that content published on the Web site of a Brazilian government agency, supported with taxpayer funds, should be «licensed» by a foreign body sponosred by George Soros, the Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and by Microsoft, Google, Sun, Yahoo and other corporations of that kind, represented by Brazilian acolytes such as the Vargas Foundation.

João Bosco Rabelo of the conservative Estado de S. Paulo issued this analysis in defense of Ana de Hollanda, sister of Dylanesque sacred monster Chico Buarque de Hollanda, both offspring of the sociologist Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda.

Hollanda withdrew the CC logo from the ministry’s Web site.

This led a network of bloggers and columnists to shower her with a campaign of criticisms aimede at her ouster.

The list of critics includes influential members of the Workers Party such as Zé Dirceu, opening a barrage of friendly fire.

Days later it was the turn of Emir Sader, who called the minster «autistic».

These critics call for Ana’s head for having resisted the relativization of authorial rights.

The real question, however, is what is to justifiy the interference of the state in private commercial relationships.

Even if it were the duty of the state so to intervene — which it is clearly not — the adoption of a private initiative like the CC by a government agency would require a public, competitive bidding process.

The most fiery charges involve alleged back-peddling to assign the enforcement of copyrights to a public agency rather than leaving them to the private-sector ASCAP equivalent, ECAD, which is described as arbitrary and corrupt.

My gut feeling, for what it is worth, is that current policy reflects a sort of hybrid market-focused solution — creating incentives for cultural consumption, such as subsidizing popular cinemas, that will drive demand for domestic production and create a genuinely independent culture industry.

We are talking about a country with two-thirds the population of the U.S. where wildly successful movie releases mobilize low hundreds of thousands of moviegoers.

This is quite a shock for an L.A. suburban boy who grew up a block from the good old Rialto — later a Landmark art house with new triple bills practically every day.

Just ask our friends Gigi and Sandra Lee, who sometimes spend far more time negotiating state bureaucracy than on molding their wildly successful, life-size three-dimensional character studies — lately they have taken to using the latex used to produce baby-bottle nipples — of Sambodian street-corner society.

For further reading: Spanish-language «copyleft» promotion entities.

Spanish Influenza | The Indian Gifts of Uncle Sam

Viomundo (Brazil) cites recent Wikileaks- and FOIA-based revelations about the influence of U.S. government and private sector support for foreign journalists and news and opinion outlets — in this case, for Venezuelan journalists and publications identified as opponents of Uncle Hugo.

The documents …set forth some US$ 4 million in financing of Venezuelan journalists and media outlets in recent years.

The funds were channeled directly from the State Department through three U.S. public entities: the Panamerican Development Fund, Freedom House and USAID.

In a crude attempt to cover up its activity, State censored the names of most of the organizations and journalists receiving this million-dollar funding. However, a document dated from July 2008 omitted censorship of two of the main groups receiving funding in Venezuela: Espacio Público and the Press and Society Institute — in Spanish, the IPYS.

This is just the sort of story that might be illustrated usefully by analyzing the «link ecology» of such networked collaborations, referencing the ECOLEAD scheme developed by the EU for this type of organization — the CNO, for Collaborative Networked Organization.

The diagram that heads this note, for example, depicts avenues of inflows and outflows — influence and effluence — among loosely joined organizational components.

An egocentric view of the IPYS network reflects a digital distribution mechanism with flows among international bodies — WAN-IFRA — as well as national and local, and management and labor.

Virtual organizations are assembled from interoperable components provided by pools of financial, technical and rhetorical resources.

A regional alliance of press associations, for example, may rely on IFEX, Article 19 or the Chapultepec Declaration in framing the argument in cases specific to its regional concerns, while on another plane such organizations may be mounted and multiplied quickly using pools of technical means — NGO and think-tank toolkits, for example.

Channels are multiplied in violation of the usual logical principle — entia non multiplicanda. The apparent wealth of apparently independent sources for specific cases of advogacy follows the Devil and his dictionary — «My name is Legion».

Digital strategies in a box include the USHAHIDI kit, promoted by American diplomacy and foreign trade evangelism and used for sites such as the PADF. Whether the partial anagram with «USAID» was intentional we shall have to ask the brains behind the non-profit currently in charge of the project.


hUh, i SAID

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Sambodia | Overflowing Stacks of Hack Attacks!

The Folha de S. Paulo practices the journalism of ante hoc ergo propter hoc.

A hacker invaded the personal e-mail of President Dilma Rousseff and copied e-mails she received during her victorious run for the presidency last year, according to a report by Matheus Leitão and Rubens Valente in today’s Folha (complete story available to subscribers of the Folha or of UOL, a company controlled by the Grupo Folha, which publishes the Folha.)

If you ask me, that lengthy bit of boilerplate about who owns who ruins the elegant punch of the lead. Nor does the nut graph inspire confidence.

The young man tried to sell the e-mails to politicians from the two opposition parties, the DEM-PFL and PSDB, but said he had no success. The Folha met with the hacker on Monday at a mall in Taguatinga, in the Federal District, 20 km from Brasília. He asked to remain anonymous, saying his name is “Douglas”, that he is unemployed, and that he is 21 years old..

Why is the Folha going to meet hackers with sensitive e-mails from Obama or Mitt Romney in a shopping mall in Ô do Borogodo? It does not by any chance reproduce any of those e-mails, does it? Read on past the pay wall to find out.

And now for something completely different.  Continue reading

Culture, Courts Debate the Commons of Copies

Conjur — Consultor Jurídico — reports

The ministry of Culture and the federal appeals court, the STJ, will hold a seminar this week on Modernizing the Law of Copyright. The event is intended to finalize the draft of a bill thaqt will amend and add provision to the current law, Law 9,610/1998.

Discussions and debates will take place involviing judges, lawmakers, attorneys and other specialists on the subject, with an eye to modernizing Brazil’s production of intellectual property. The event will open with addresses from Culture minister Anna de Holanda, STJ justice Nancy Andrighi, retired federal appeals judge Carlos Mathias and representatives of the federal legislature.

Book early. The all you can eat shrimp boat with Chilean ají sauce is going to be divine, I hear. Continue reading