Music may seem free when it flows from a radio, the television or an internet hookup, but like everything else someone has to pay.
Many Costa Rican residents have been slow to grasp that concept, and bootlegged CDs and video disks are sold openly on the streets, although sometimes there is police action.
Since 2004 mostly unseen to most residents, there have been organizations that collect fees for this music from television stations, cable television providers, radio stations and even bars and restaurants. Ultimately it is the residents who pay as the costs of music and videos are rolled into retail charges.
One organization represents authors and composers. A second represents those who actually sing or play the music. A third organization, the Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Fonográfica y Afines, represents the recording industry. All want to be paid.
Radio Columbia Estéreo, a holding of Grupo Columbia, just went public Thursday with a claim that the association is a threat to freedom of expression. The dispute between Grupo Columbia and the Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Fonográfica brought into public focus a conflict related to the enforcement of copyrights.
Grupo Columbia operates a string of popular stations in addition to Radio Columbia Estéreo. They are Radio Columbia, Radio 2, Wao, 95.5 Jazz, Noticias Columbia and Columbia Deportiva. The radio feeds also go to other stations.
Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Fonográfica has obtained a court order to take over the assets of Radio Columbia Estéreo because the association and the radio station have not reached a financial agreement. Radio Columbia Estéreo says the association wants 296 million colons, about $545,000. Police and representatives of the association showed up at the station to enforce the court order, called an embargo in Spanish.
The Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Fonográfica says its 2009 claim is against LARG S.A., which it identified as the owner of Radio Columbia Estéreo. The association cites a 1982 law that allows it to collect for the use of the copyrighted material.
The association said that it tried to negotiate for months without success with radio stations and the Cámara Nacional de Radio. MARCOSA S.A., which operates Radio Puntarenas, reached an agreement, the association said, adding that it has not even been able to get an appointment with executives at Radio Colombia Estéreo since June.
The radio station said in a statement that the money claims of the association are disproportionate and it disputes the way the amount was calculated.
The radio station seems primed to continue the fight in both the judicial and public arena.
The association predicted that Radio Columbia Estéreo and other stations as well as the radio chamber would begin a campaign with false arguments to manipulate the public sector.
Although the radio group seems ready for a fight, the opponent is not without resources. The board of the association contains representatives from Universal Música Costa Rica S.A., Warner Music Centroamérica S.A. and Sony Music Entertaiment C.R. S.A.