ERC, the entity tasked with regulating the media, cannot do anything about pirated content. Image: Miguel A Lopes/ Lusa
ERC, the entity tasked with regulating the media, cannot do anything about pirated content. Image: Miguel A Lopes/ Lusa

Media regulator hits out at illicit sharing of journalistic content

ERC stresses “crime punishable up to three years jail” – but its hands are tied

The regulatory council of Portugal’s media regulator, ERC, has hit out against what it calls the illicit sharing of journalistic content over the internet, saying it is a crime punishable by up to three years in jail plus a fine – but its own hands are tied.

In a statement, the ERC council said that it “condemns the illegal sharing of newspapers and magazines via social networks and email, as well as the proliferation of unregistered websites purporting to be media, without clear identification of sources and authors, which appropriate news from the media.

But – and this is the problem – “the current legislative and regulatory framework does not allow ERC to intervene in these situations, as they concern issues related to intellectual property” (…) “the damage this situation causes to the media sector, which sees its content pirated” is immeasurable.

“When exposed to allegedly informative websites that are not registered and subject to regulation, citizens will find it more difficult to distinguish whether this content is factual and/ or properly contextualised, which compromises the public’s right to independent, credible, assertive information carried out by qualified professionals.

“Considering that freedom of expression and information, as well as freedom of the press, are constitutionally enshrined rights, the Regulatory Council hereby clarifies to its regulators that the illicit sharing of journalistic content on the Internet constitutes a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of 150 to 250 days, as provided for in the Code of Copyright and Related Rights (CDADC).” 

The regulatory council also mentions the legal mechanisms available to the media when faced with a situation of piracy of journalistic content.

“The holder of the copyright or related rights, or whoever is authorised to use them, can ask the Intellectual Property Court to order a precautionary measure, such as blocking access to certain groups/channels, when there is an infringement or a well-founded fear that someone else will cause serious and difficult-to-repair damage to the copyright or related rights.”

The owner of the rights or their representative can also report the situation to the General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC), which has the power to order the removal of or prevent access to the content in question, the ERC statement adds.

In other words, the onus on protecting content lies with the media itself, not with the sector’s regulator. ND

Source: Lusa