Two chambers ask president to reject weakening author rights

Two business chambers are calling on President Laura Chinchilla to reject a bill passed by the legislature that waters down protection of intellectual property.

They are the Cámara Costarricense Norteamericana de Comercio, known as AmCham, and the Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación

The bill, No. 17342, would eliminate criminal penalties from violations of authors’ rights and leave unprotected the falsification of pirating of software, music and movie CDs, architectural plans or paintings, said the chambers.

The bill also allows students to photocopy textbooks, but both chambers said they approve of this.

Lawmakers passed the bill June 20. Current law specifies prison for from one to six years for violating the rights of authors or creators, noted the chambers. These sanctions will cease to exist if Ms.Chinchilla approved the proposed law, they said.

The recourse for authors who have seen their work pirated would be Costa Rica’s civil court system, and those bringing the case would have to collect their own evidence, said the chambers.
Costa Rica, of course, is awash with counterfeit products. Copied CDs are sold openly in public places. Fake designer jeans sometimes are intercepted at the docks or at warehouses. The raids usually are sparked by private organizations representing the interests of international publishers or designers.

Most who operate in this black market are low-level members of international criminal organizations. They re unlikely to be around for any civil trials.

The two chambers said in a release that they support copying of materials, including sound and video recordings for academic purposes.

Operators of photocopying stores at one point stopped reproducing copyrighted books for fear of criminal action.

Costa Rica has a mixed history on the protection of authors rights. President Óscar Arias Sánchez moved to have the country opt out of a section of an international treaty that required public places like bars and restaurants to pay royalties on songs that they played.

AmCham is involved because many of its members are foreign firms doing business here. The technology chamber is involved because products like software require extensive investment.

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