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Costa Rica: Students Protest Veto of ‘Photocopying Law’

[All links forward to articles in Spanish unless otherwise stated]

Thousands of students participated in a march in San José on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, protesting for their right to photocopy textbooks for educational purposes.

The unrest was caused by President Chinchilla vetoing Bill 17342 (known as the ‘Photocopying Law’) which seeks to amend Law No 8039 on Procedures for Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, on the grounds that it removes protection of the work and intellectual property in the artistic, literary and technological areas.

Supporters of the march and the Photocopying Law point out that her decision was influenced by pressure from publishers whose business is selling highly priced books. This is why the supporters consider it necessary to ensure the democratisation of education and knowledge through the legalisation of the use of photocopies for educational purposes.

Students protesting Veto of Photocopying Law

Students protesting Veto of Photocopying Law. Photo by Diego Molina Moreira, Diego Molmo on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The movement ‘Photocopying to Study’ wrote about the veto in a series of Facebook updates:

Es irónico e inconcebible que un país como el nuestro, que es reconocido a nivel internacional, como promotor de los Derechos Humanos, niegue a las personas, mediante unas penas y multas altísimas, comparables inclusive con uno de los muchos proyectos de Ley de Tránsito, el acceso a las fuentes de información.

It is ironic and inconceivable that a country like ours, which is recognized at an international level as a promoter of Human Rights, denies people, by means of extremely high penalties and fines, comparable even with one of the many Traffic Law Bills, access to sources of information.

The movement added:

Desde la juventud no podemos quedarnos callados. Debemos exigir a todos los legisladores que hagan un examen de conciencia, que escuchen a las nuevas generaciones y que aprueben nuevamente el Proyecto Fotocopiando para Estudiar de forma unánime. El próximo 9 de octubre los y las jóvenes marcharemos desde distintos rincones del país hacia la Asamblea Legislativa para reclamar nuestros derechos a una educación accesible y de calidad

The youth can't keep silent. We really need the lawmakers to examine their conscience, to listen to the new generation and reapprove the Bill regarding Photocopying for Studying on a unanimous basis. This October 9, young men and women are marching from different corners of the country to the Legislative Assembly to demand our rights to accessible quality education.

Regarding one of the motivations for the March, the Liga por la Revolución Socialista (League for socialist revolution) blog published:

La marcha del 9 de octubre, apoyada y convocada en algunos casos hasta por las autoridades (como en la UCR), debería servir como un recurso para relanzar la lucha por el “derecho a fotocopiar” en el marco de la más absoluta independencia respecto a los empresarios, sean grandes como los de las casas editoriales, o “pequeños” como los “copistas”.

The march of October 9, supported and called for in some cases by the authorities (as in the University of Costa Rica), should serve as a resource to relaunch the struggle for the “right to photocopy” within the framework of absolute independence with respect to entrepreneurs, whether they are big like the publishing houses, or “small” as the “copyists”.

The Photocopying Act has also been subject of analysis by those who consider that the reform is only delaying proposals of concrete, long term solutions which benefit the majority, not just the intermediaries.

Carolina Flores explained in her blog Piensa Libre (Free Thinking) why she is against the reform:

¿Cómo, una defensora del conocimiento abierto, puede oponerse a algo así? La respuesta simple es: porque ese derecho ya existe y constituye una de las excepciones al derecho de autor que nuestra ley contempla. La respuesta complicada es: porque el conocimiento abierto, el software libre y la cultura libre dependen de que se respeten los derechos de autor. También, porque esta reforma de visión cortoplacista desperdicia la oportunidad de enmendar a profundidad las leyes nacionales sobre estos temas.

How can an advocate of open knowledge oppose something like this? The simple answer is: because this right already exists and is one of the exceptions to copyright which our law provides. The complicated answer is: because open knowledge, free software and free culture depend on our respecting the rights of the author. Also, because this short-sighted reform wastes the opportunity to radically amend national laws on these issues.

In addition, the blog offered a number of suggestions as part of its proposal for the handling of the issue, among which were:

Las instituciones académicas deben asumir su papel. Les corresponde a estas resolver cómo proveer a los estudiantes de esos materiales en formato digital (por ejemplo), volver a dotar a las bibliotecas de las obras que necesitamos y tener dentro de su marco los centros de fotocopiado trabajando al costo o con ganancias que se destinen a fines que no sean el lucro.


El Estado debe asumir su papel y realizar campañas informativas sobre estos temas. En la sociedad de la información y el conocimiento, la propiedad intelectual constituye como nunca antes, una herramienta que todos debemos saber manejar. Estas campañas deben incluir por supuesto, los modelos alternativos que proponen el conocimiento abierto y la cultura libre, de manera que las personas podamos elegir cómo queremos compartir nuestras creaciones, cuáles son nuestras obligaciones y cuáles son nuestros derechos.

Academic institutions must play their part. They need to resolve how to provide students with such materials in (for example) digital form, provide libraries again with the works we need, and have centres within the framework of photocopying, working at cost or with proceeds intended for non-profit purposes.[…]

The State should play its part and carry out information campaigns on these issues. In the information and knowledge society, intellectual property is, like never before, a tool that everyone must know to use. These campaigns should obviously include alternative models proposing open knowledge and free culture, so that people can choose how we want to share our creations, what our obligations are and what our rights are.

Students protesting the veto of the Photocopying Law.

Students protesting the veto of Photocopying Law. Photo by Diego Molina Moreira, Diego Molmo on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

For his part, Andrés Guadamuz wrote on the topic on his blog Tecnollama:

Tenemos entonces varios intereses en pugna. La educación superior requiere de acceso a obras de calidad, pero estas van a ser producidas tan solo si los autores y editores tienen la expectativa real de que sus inversiones van a ser recuperadas. El autor tiene tanto derecho a una remuneración justa como el estudiante tiene derecho a tener acceso a textos económicamente accesibles

We have then several competing interests. Higher education requires access to quality works, but these will only be produced if authors and publishers have a real expectation that their investments will be recovered. The author has as much right to a fair remuneration as the student has the right to have access to affordable texts.

He also wrote about alternative solutions to the problem, saying:

Un sistema que existe en otros países es el de tener fotocopiadoras automatizadas en bibliotecas en las que la totalidad de fondos es destinada a los autores por medio de sociedades de gestión colectiva. Este sistema tiene la ventaja de permitir a la vez el acceso a textos educativos de forma barata, así como el permitir la justa remuneración para los autores de las obras.

A system that exists in other countries is that of having automated photocopiers in libraries in which all funds are allocated to the authors through collecting societies. This system has the advantage of allowing access to educational texts at a low price as well as allowing fair remuneration of the authors of the works.

The march went peacefully until arriving at the Legislative Assembly, where there were clashes between some demonstrators and the police.

Tweets about the march can be read under the hashtag #FotocopiandoParaEstudiar (Photocopying to study).


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