San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican Musicians Demand Respect of Intellectual Property Laws

Live music, ranging in style from acoustic folk rock to cumbia, floated over the Ombudswoman’s Office Wednesday as a diverse group of musicians gathered to present a complaint regarding disrespect of copyright laws in Costa Rica.

The group of well-respected national artists claimed that the Arias administration’s policies on intellectual property rights were too lax, and called for payment of royalties and recognition of musicians’ rights as workers.

From a stage erected in the parking lot of the government building, Pato Barraza, a renowned member of the Costa Rican music scene for more than 20 years, pointed to his guitar and said, “This is my machete. I am a worker.”

The group of musicians wants businesses like radio stations, restaurants and hotels to pay royalties – in the form of a percentage of the businesses’ earnings – for the music they play, and are requesting that Ombudswoman Ofelia Taitelbaum arrange for negotiations among the artists, businesses and the Legislative Assembly.

“If we talk about the music business, we’re talking about musicians, singers, editors, composers, on top of a whole slew of workers,” Barraza said from the stage. “We’re talking about a whole country here – an enormous business. We’re not talking about one famous musician who gets onstage and sings a song. No. We’re talking about people who take tickets, graphic designers, a whole, huge economic infrastructure.”

While Costa Rica is a signatory to five separate international copyright conventions and treaties, Taitelbaum wants to avoid legal action. Instead, she hopes to find a compromise between artists and business owners.

“We’re going to try to bring both sides together to make a compromise,” Taitlebaum said. “If not, we’ll have to satisfy the law.”

No specific plans for a formal, moderated meeting involving both musicians and business owners had been announced as of press time.

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