Taringa! Case: find out before you what its new "big revolution" will be and if court ruling marks a before and after
In 2006, the brothers Matías and Hernán Botbol bought together with their friend Alberto Nakayama Taringa !, a website with a "forum" format that, in a short time, grew in popularity in Argentina.
So much so that currently has more than 29 million active users and 40 million unique monthly visits.
The adventure took about two years to show a setback: the Argentine Chamber of Books and several publishers denounced the company for violating intellectual property rights, after a group of people used the platform to share some works. Later, BMG / Magenta was added.
Last week, after nine years of litigation, the Justice acquitted the three responsible for the website. In dialogue with iProUP, Matías Botbol, CEO of the firm, reviewed the legal landscape of intermediaries and the upcoming projects of Taringa !, which include "freeing" the platform through blockchain and international expansion.After the ruling, how is the legal landscape in Argentina for the exchange of content on the Internet?
This sets a precedent: it is the first criminal trial in the history of the country against the Internet and copyright.
What the judge determined is that it is not viable that a platform, an intermediary, has to make a premoderation of the contents, because it goes against freedom of expression, since it would be prior censorship.
It is a way to understand what is the responsibility of intermediaries. When the prosecutor presented her position, she asked for the acquittal of Taringa! because I already understood what happens with intermediaries on the Internet compared to the start of the trial: it was not necessary to go against Taringa !, but against those who violated copyright.
According to the ruling, the prosecutor also raised some legal loopholes, how were the issues of the digital economy discussed that the legislation does not contemplate?
In one part of the trial there was talk about the fact that the copyright law is quite old. Although it was updated, the legislation establishes a criminal responsibility, when in the rest of the world it has a civil consequence.
"We were a scapegoat for those who did not accept the new economy"What it raised is that there is a question about the business models, that the technology was changing them and the regulations must be adapted. We were a scapegoat for those who did not accept the new economy.
Spotify, Netflix or Steam found a model by which users can consume digitally. Those who sued us, instead of looking for the return, were against all those who felt they could affect their business.
What is missing for Argentine legislation to adapt to the new economy?
There is a law that was presented by Miguel Angel Pichetto, who achieved parliamentary status but then got off, on intermediaries on the Internet, which applies to our case. We do not have a position taken on copyright.
Other organizations do, such as the Vía Libre Foundation, which is continuing a struggle on this issue and faces the lobby of the recording, publishing and other industries that want a tougher copyright law because it benefits their business.
We have a closer stance to seek change. Obviously, we support institutions such as Vía Libre, but it is not our function. Taringa! It does not have to be the one that changes a law, we are to fight for freedoms on the Internet.What kind of arguments did you hear in these nine years of trial?What posed the complaint, the Magenta stamp, is that the Internet is a bad thing that generates de facto crimes.
One of the criticisms they gave us is that we do not deliberately provide users with information, as if we should necessarily offer that information as if they were criminals.
(The president of the Vía Libre Foundation, Beatriz) Busaniche testified that everyone has the right to anonymity, because it allows to make complaints or provide information that would not provide if they have to give their name and surname.
"They said that publishing a link made us responsible for what was stored on another platform, as if Google were responsible for all Internet content"
We only provide data if there is a request from a prosecutor in the context of a judicial process when a crime was committed. But not to anyone, because we would violate the right to privacy. However, the complaint did not understand it.
Another absurd question that was raised was that a platform like ours has to premode all the content that is generated, have all the copyright information of the world and check all the time if what users upload is protected by those rights.
They also told us that publishing a link automatically made us responsible for what was stored on another platform. The Internet does not work like that, but Google would be responsible for all the contents that exist on the Web.What is the state of Taringa! nowadays?
Taringa! We did not create it but we bought it in 2016 from Fernando Sanz, who originally created it, and we relaunched it.
Until this year, he was running on the same technology, but it was getting obsolete and it was very hard to scale it. We made a big technological change.
We create APIs (Application Programming Interface) so that the user can use them in the creation of publishing or moderation tools independent of the ones we do. And start working in a more open system.
We also launch channels, where one subscribes to receive personalized information, allowing the experience to be simpler and to consume content of interest. Before, there were conversations between users who did not have common points and that generated problems, because they quarreled or argued, and the experience became unpleasant.
Now that the trial is over and seeing that the platform is available in other languages, do you think about the expansion?
Yes. The new platform is multilanguage. It is already online and we have some changes that are important, but from there we will begin to globalize.
There is also a project to migrate the platform to blockchain and that there is no longer a company that is the owner, but rather a decentralized model.
The idea is that users have benefits according to what they do and that the contents are self-managed. In 2015 we made a first project with (the Bitcoin wallet) Xapo, in which there was a revenue share (profit sharing).
"We have a project to migrate the platform to blockchain and that there is no longer a company that owns Taringa !, but rather a decentralized model"
The idea now is that it has its own economic logic. That tokens (convertible assets in cryptocurrencies) can be issued with which it is feasible to advertise or promote contents. And that the channels distribute those tokens among their users based on the distribution rules of each channel.
Next year we will have an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to free Taringa! and that is 100% self-managing.
They have millions of users, a recognized brand, what would they be missing to be a "unicorn"?
I think we need to stop thinking like Argentines and have a more global mind. That is the limitation we had. That is why we are launching projects with a more globalized head.
We always think of the Spanish-speaking public in Latin America. And that limited us to grow in other markets. The other Argentine technological companies that expanded had a strong footing in Brazil or in other regions and we did not.Was part of this expansion or some project "freezed" by such a long trial?
Yes, it affected us. At the brand level, it began to relate to Taringa! as something illegal or related to piracy. It hit us at an advertising level, it closed us a lot of doors to look for advertisers. It also hurt us when receiving investments. We were affected at the brand, collection and development level as a company.Brazil is the next step?
Yes. Or any other country. Attract people from anywhere in the world. But free Taringa! in the blockchain and being more autonomous will allow anyone to join, beyond the fact that a company goes to a country to plant a flag.
With Bitcoin, that happened a bit. He freed himself and grew up alone, without a company behind him. It is the concept to which we aim. It's disruptive, because nobody did something like that yet. But part of the fun of our work is doing crazy things.