San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Dispute Erupts Over Drastic Bill

Legislators this week rejected an executive branch bill that would harshly punish violators of intellectual property laws. The bill, proposed by the Foreign Trade Ministry in November, would send people to prison for four to six years for copyright and trademark violations.

“We don’t accept this unjustified, disproportional increase in penalties,” Lorena Vásquez, faction head for the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), said in a statement.

The proposal is one of 11 bills that would implement the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA). Dissent from pro-CAFTA legislators like Vásquez over the bill has threatened to divide the coalition of 38 legislators who back the treaty.

Falsifying a trademark, selling false products, reproducing literary works without the author’s permission would merit four- to six-year prison sentences.

“The penalty shouldn’t be the same for someone who copies a computer program for personal use, as for someone who has a business” selling pirated programs, Vásquez said.

In a meeting with pro-CAFTA legislators Tuesday, First Vice President Laura Chinchilla gave them the green light to propose an alternative bill that would reduce penalties while still complying with CAFTA.

The bill will be discussed by a 19-member legislative body that has the power to approve laws.

Legislators have approved two of the 11 CAFTA laws, which must be passed by Feb. 29 for the treaty to go into effect.


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