San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Rocks, bags of urine fly as Costa Rican students demand right to photocopy

Some 3,000 students and university professors marched Tuesday in San José to ask the Legislative Assembly to reinstate a bill authorizing the copying of books for educational purposes. President Laura Chinchilla recently vetoed the bill.

Students and teachers from various public universities protested in different parts of the capital and joined up in front of the assembly building shouting, “reauthorize it now.”

“We defend the right to education,” read one sign at the demonstration. “Are you [expletive] kidding me, Laura?” asked another.

The protest turned violent in the afternoon after a group of young, self-described “anarchists” with their faces covered began hurling rocks at the assembly and a line of riot police officers guarding the assembly’s entrance. Student protesters distanced themselves from the rock-throwing anarchists, and many began leaving once the violence began.

Copy Rights Protest 2

Riot police officers had to contain a group of self-described “anarchists” who began hurling rocks at the assembly. Tico Times photographer Alberto Font was injured by a large rock thrown during the melee.

Alberto Font

Citizen Action Party lawmaker Claudio Monge reportedly was soaked in urine. Someone tossed a bag filled with the bodily fluid near him as he tried to calm protesters. Monge said he believes the urine tosser was not affiliated with the students’ march.

Costa Rican law gives the head of the executive branch the power to veto bills passed by Congress, but lawmakers can vote a resello, or reauthorization, and the president would not be able to veto it again.

The Costa Rican assembly in June approved a series of amendments to the “Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights” law, eliminating severe penalties (such as five years in jail), against photocopying literary materials or scientific works without an author’s permission.

But on Sept. 25, Chinchilla vetoed the reform, arguing that the current law does not prohibit photocopying if the copied materials are not-for-profit. Chinchilla said this does not affect academic activity.

Lawmaker José María Villalta, of the leftist Broad Front, rejected that argument and said small businesses that make copies for students work in the interest of profit and, therefore, their owners may be prosecuted criminally.

“The government chose [to side with] powerful business chambers. The students need to photocopy to study, and so we support their demands,” Villalta said.

Photocopying for educational purposes also has the support of legislators from the opposition Citizen Action Party, the second-largest legislative faction, which includes Monge. The party pledged its support Tuesday.

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