Arggh! Them Pirates Be Costa Rican!

A. M. Costa Rica is a never ending source of inspiration to me. Not as an example of great writing or web design, but they do turn up some items that inspire me to put some spin on things.

In this case, it’s the Feb. 24 2011 issue, page 1. It seems the International Intellectual Property Alliance isn’t happy with Costa Rica. Simply put, too many ‘pirate’ copies of music and video are being sold, and Costa Rica isn’t doing enough to stop it. Like, wow, man.

On page 3, La Presidenta defends her security ‘plan.’ I put the word ‘plan’ in quotes since I setting a goal is not the same as having a plan. I can set a goal of having a billion dollars by the 4th of July, but that’s not a plan. She defends her ‘security plan,’ as one would expect from a politician. But incomplete as it is, it does admit that Costa Rica has a problem with law enforcement and its ‘justice’ system. (again with the quotes…)

And that leads us back to item one, enforcement of copyright laws and standards. I am reminded of a joke:

A man gets a call from a charity organization seeking a donation.

Charity: Can you help us with our cause?
Man: Listen, my sister has 3 kids and has been out of work for almost a year. My brother has cancer and no health insurance. My father and mother live on a fixed income and Mom has Alzheimer’s disease and Dad needs somebody to help care for her. My son just got arrested for selling meth and needs an attorney to avoid going to prison. If I don’t help any of them, what makes you think I’ll help YOU?

It could be rewritten as follows:

International Intellectual Property Alliance: You need to devote more resources to intellectual property rights.
Mrs. Chinchilla: Listen, my country has home invasions, murders, drug gangs, a soaring child poverty rate, overcrowded schools, an overtaxed public health system, crumbling roads and bridges, polluted rivers and garbage everywhere. If I’m not doing anything about any of THAT, I can certainly ignore YOU.

I don’t expect the International Intellectual Property Alliance to understand, but I would point to an article of my own on the informal economy in Costa Rica. 42% of GDP is the informal economy! There are no real statistics on unemployment or underemployment here, but let’s just say it is high. The street vendors may be lawbreakers, but nobody I have talked to can tell me what they should be doing instead. Costa Rica’s biggest exporter, Intel, employs around 3000 people. Conservative estimates tell us there are maybe 10,000 sex workers (informal economy again) in the country. Assuming they all got religion, where exactly are they supposed to work?

Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya show us what happens when you have a large population that can’t find work and afford the basics. The government may be incompetent and ineffective, but they realize that you can’t crack down hard on 42% of GDP and expect domestic tranquility. Poor people don’t worry the government much, but you can bet ANGRY poor people would.

So what can we expect? Maybe a speech, a press release and/or a photo op. A few symbolic raids perhaps. Then back to business as usual. Pura vida.

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  1. Great article. I have to agree there are quite alot of street vendors out there with pirated movies.

    The funny thing is that the municipal police only deal with the problem, and the regular Fuerza Publica stands there and watches them. I'm not sure if bringing them into the fray would solve the problem, but they certainly have more manpower than the city police.