Brazilian Law No Longer Prevents Unauthorized Biographies
Recently, Brazil’s Supreme Court voted unanimously to overturn a 2003 law that prevented unauthorized biographies. The previous law allowed the subjects of biographies to prevent their publication or, if already published, remove them from publication.
In the last several years, biographies of famous Brazilians have either been blocked or pulled from bookshelves. In some cases, Brazilian publishers simply refused to publish biographies without the consent of the subject. In 2007, singer Roberto Carlos successfully sued to have a book about his life pulled from the shelves of bookstores. In the case of former FIFA boss João Havelange, his biography never even made it to the stores. Carlos and Havelange used the former law to support their cases.
The prior law generated a storm of controversy with both supporters and opponents voicing their opinions. Most of those who supported the law were celebrities who argued that they had a right to privacy. Some, including musicians Roberto Carlos and Caetano Veloso, even actively lobbied the court to uphold the law.
Opponents of the law felt it was unconstitutional as it went against the right to freedom of speech. Some critics said the law was possibly the most extreme regulation of its kind in any democratic nation. Isabel Vincent, whose book about Lily Safra, a wealthy socialite and philanthropist, was banned in 2013, said the law “smacks of censorship.”
Some people pointed out that the previous law could have been interpreted even more broadly. Although the issue only focused on books that celebrities prevented from being published, legal experts point out that the interpretation of the former law could have eventually expanded to prevent newspapers, magazines, and television programs from running stories if the people in the stories did not approve.
With the new, less stringent conditions for publishing unauthorized biographies, things will now certainly change when it comes to what stories are published about celebrities. Perhaps some of those books that originally were banned from publication, or that were pulled from stores, will also now be sold.