Censorship in Brazil Defeated by Supreme Court
Brazil’s Supreme Court has voted to reverse a 2003 law that allowed people with books written about them to prevent the books from being published. A national publisher’s association, Anel, helped bring the case to the Supreme Court. Anel’s lawyers questioned the constitutionality of the law.
Under the wide-ranging and controversial law, Brazilians who disapproved of what was written about them were able to block publication of the book. Additionally, books already published could be removed from stores. The law has mostly been used by celebrities, who simply needed to declare that they did not authorize the writer to write about them.
Publishers and journalists called the law possibly the most extreme example of regulating privacy and intellectual property in any democratic country. Some authors said the law allowed for direct censorship.
The law created a huge problem for Brazil’s publishing industry because most publishers refused to print books about celebrities unless the celebrities first provided the publishers with written permission saying they approved of the biography.
Several famous singers in Brazil stated publicly that they were in favor of the law in a series of interviews and newspaper opinion pieces. Those defending the law included Caetano Veloso, one of the founders of the Tropicalia movement, who spent years in exile under Brazil’s military dictatorship. Another supporter of the censorship law was Roberto Carlos, a singer who succeeded in having an unauthorized biography about him removed from bookstores in 2007, saying it invaded his privacy.
While the works most affected by the law have tended to be biographies of celebrities like Roberto Carlos or former FIFA boss João Havelange, legal experts have said the law had a much bigger impact. By restricting the “publication, exposition and use of the image of a person,” the law was also used against newspaper and magazine articles and TV news accounts, when the subjects weren’t happy with what was being said about them.