In Portugal, an attempt by rights-holders to catalyse government action against peer-to-peer file-sharers and Internet downloading, appears to have back-fired. They tried to get the authorities to take action against file-sharers, but instead, they’ve got  an official  ruling that file-sharing - at least  for personal use -  is not illegal.

  In a nutshell, the Public Prosector (Ministério Público) has rejected a complaint over peer-to-peer file-sharing by ACAPOR – the Trade Association for Audiovisual Works and Cultural and Entertainment in Portugal which represents the film industry.

It seems that the ACAPOR  took an  unusual step to open their complaint. They literally dumped a printed list of 1970-2000 IP addresses on at the reception desk of the Departamento de Investigação e Acção Penal de Lisboa  - the Department of Investigation and Penal Action  - where the public prosecutor’s office is situated.  Torrentfreak has a photograph on of the parcels being deposited.

The IP addresses   had been harvested on peer-to-peer (P2P)  file-sharing networks, where users were sharing copyrighted files. The ACAPOR alleged the users linked to those IP addresses were infringing copyright.

The Public Prosecutor  has responded by saying that it would be far too much of an expense for the public purse to pay for an investigation into all 2000 alleged copyright infringements  individually. Portugal is after all, part of the Eurozone and struggling with a large national debt.

In a significant ruling released last week, the Public Prosecutor said that under Portugese law, file-sharing  for personal use is not illegal. The Prosecutor set his statement in the context of the right to freedom of expression.

The ruling explains that the individual who holds the contract for the service, and who would therefore be associated with the IP address, might be a different person from the user of the peer-to-peer software.  This is a point that is argued in each case where rights-holders go after peer-to-peer users and it is a relevent point. 

This ruling  has deeply upset the Portugese  rights-holders. The ACAPOR said in a statement that it went against all logic.  The Portugese Society of Authors is ‘perplexed’ by the ruling.

However, in a rather unusual twist, the Prosecutor has said that the rights-holders should specifically declare that they are not authorising copying for personal use.

 ACAPOR seems to be interpret this as meaning that  that the private copying exception now applies to P2P  file-sharing.

This is an original article from If you refer to it or to its content,  you should cite my name as the  author, and provide a link back to  Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten,   Portugese  prosecutor says file-sharing is not illegal, in,  1 October   2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.