Reports from Costa Rica indicate that final approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States is languishing in the Legislative Assembly due to concerns over the copyright provisions. The CAFTA copyright provisions are similar to those found in the other major U.S. trade agreements concluded in recent years: DMCA-style protections, ISP liability, and copyright term extension are all part of the package.
In this case, it is the responses that are most noteworthy. Within Costa Rica, the article reports that the copyright provisions in the trade treaty have set off a wave of student protests over what it means for education. Meanwhile, health officials are concerned that the provisions on pharmaceutical products "would bankrupt the public health system." The response from the U.S. is important as well. It is delaying market access to sugar from the developing country until the copyright reforms are in place. Until that time, Costa Rican sugar producers will not be able to sell their product in the U.S.
Interestingly, Costa Rica is not the only country in the region grappling with U.S. pressure on copyright.
In a refrain that sound familiar to Canadians, the Bahamas faces similar pressures from the USTR. It has proposed IP enforcement reforms, though even the Chamber of Commerce President notes "people are entitled to eat, and in an economy as bad as this one is now, people are finding creative ways to survive and are choosing the path of least resistance. If they're going to sell a counterfeit bag for $100 to feed their family, and that's what they're going to be arrested for, does it make sense to put them in jail?" While he advocates for reform and education, he adds that 90 – 95% of the counterfeit products come via the U.S. and it is foreign tourists that buy the majority of the products in local markets.
Update: Andres Guadamuz provides more background and context on the Costa Rica story beyond the initial Tico Times article. He notes that the story originates with another article on delayed sugar shipments with sugar producers attributing the delays to the fact that the copyright law reforms have not been completed. The U.S. embassy denied the linkage.