Print 27 comment(s) - last by ritualm.. on Jan 29 at 1:39 PM

Site is allowed to make up to $21M USD a year to compensate for "illegal" U.S. ban on internet gambling

This month the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda aims to finally force a World Trade Organization discussion of its plans to launch a "pirate" site, which would profit off of selling cheap bootlegs of copyrighted works owned by copyright holders in the United States.

The unprecedented plan comes courtesy of a bizarre trade conflict between the U.S. and the small Caribbean island nation.  The battle began when the U.S. in 2003 blocked various Antiguan internet gambling portals, such as the World Sports Exchange.  After negotiations collapsed, Antigua took its case to the World Trade Organization, an international arbitrary body that deals with trade disputes.

The WTO ruled in 2005 that the U.S. decision to block Antiguan internet gambling IP addresses violated free-trade since some similar domestic (U.S.) gambling sites were allowed to remain in operation.  The U.S. refused to comply with the ruling.  The refusal brought big changes to the island's economy; 5 percent of the citizens once worked in the high-tech internet gambling industry -- now they were left looking for jobs.

In 2007, a frustrated WTO ruled that Antigua was allowed to suspend U.S. copyrights to the tune of up to $21M USD annually until the U.S. complied with the ruling.  Antigua declared plans to leverage the ruling by launching a portal that sells bootlegs of U.S. copyrighted works at discounted rates, for profit.

Antigua resort
Antigua is a popular tourist destination. [Image Source: Honeymoons Inc.]

The WTO would have to sign off on the plan, but that debate never happened because the U.S. successfully shelved the discussion at the last WTO meeting, calling it "untimely".

In an interview with Torrent Freak, Antiguan government attorney Mark Mendel emphasized that his nation's plans were not "piracy" as the WTO approved of the copyright violations.  He remarks, "There is no body in the world that can stop us from doing this, as we already have approval from the international governing body WTO."

The U.S. is upset about the plan.  It has written a terse letter to the WTO declaring:

If Antigua actually proceeds with a plan for its government to authorize the theft of intellectual property, it would only serve to hurt Antigua’s own interests.
Government-authorized piracy would undermine chances for a settlement that would provide real benefits to Antigua. It also would serve as a major impediment to foreign investment in the Antiguan economy, particularly in high-tech industries.

But Antigua isn't listening to the threat and is poised to move forward with the plan at this month's meeting.  Exact details of the portal have not been publicized, but Torrent Freak writes that one idea is to grant citizens unlimited access to U.S. copyrighted works for $5 USD/month.  Antigua and Barbuda has a population of about 80,000 people, most of whom live on the island of Antigua.

Sources: Carrbbean 360, Torrent Freak

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Only $21M USD?
By jimbojimbo on 1/25/2013 2:25:41 PM , Rating: 5
Hell, the entertainment industry probably gives more than that in "lobbying donations", or really the term is bribes, in a year. Congress will pass a law to block their IP addresses as quickly as it takes the media giants to tell them to.

RE: Only $21M USD?
By hughlle on 1/25/2013 7:29:50 PM , Rating: 3
Other than for the fact that there are one or two other countries in the world aside from America. The point of the site is to bring in revenue for the country to compensate the loss of income from the ban in America, so as such they plan to sell American made material for low prices to anyone willing to pay. It does not matter where the consumer lives, the point is that should a fellow in England want to buy a copy of an album, they can do, for cheap, and the US media moguls will not be getting a cent from the sale.

It is about punishing American media corporations by costing them their revenue, however minute the yearly allowed income is, and regardless of who buys it, not about getting Americans to buy the content.

RE: Only $21M USD?
By jimbojimbo on 1/25/2013 9:12:36 PM , Rating: 4
I live in the US and I'm all for it. Really I think the WTO should be arranging some sort of embargo on this country since our great leaders decided to laugh in the their face.
It is funny though that this is essentially legal piracy yet the entertainment industry if it reacts proportionately as it has before will indeed try to destroy the country. One person shares a file via torrents they send in a swat team. One country defiantly offers to sell all media, they will call for a giant foot to come down on the entire country.

RE: Only $21M USD?
By samspqr on 1/26/2013 4:09:25 AM , Rating: 3
So: a 100% legal service that gives me access to all US-copyrighted material for $5/month? And probably without all those paranoid restrictions like DRM and such? I'm in!

It's $21M/year, right? In that case, if their technical costs (bandwidth and such) are $2.5/month per user, they're allowed to take 700K users from all around the world.

Given that this is WTO-sanctioned, if the US responds with something like a trade embargo, ban on travel, etc, then they'll only get the compensation amount increased, so more users can go in. And they don't need the US at all, they just need to get hold of the content and sell it in the rest of the world.

Now, why only $5? They can sell this service all around the world, and in places like Spain (where I live) there's no alternative at all. There's no Netflix here. I'd be happy to pay $15 for a Netflix-like service, $25 if everything is in HD, $30 if it allows me to download music too. And they don't have to negotiate with the copyright owners, so it doesn't need to be streaming, it can be a full download with great quality.

RE: Only $21M USD?
By samspqr on 1/26/2013 4:11:08 AM , Rating: 4
Wait, I know why it has to be $5/month: because if the profit is higher fewer users will be allowed. I'll take it for $5 then!

RE: Only $21M USD?
By mmatis on 1/26/2013 9:15:59 AM , Rating: 2
What makes you think Congress will have to even pass a law to get those addresses blocked? Are you not aware that ISPs routinely do whatever they are told by US "Law Enforcement", since they know said "Law Enforcement" officers can put them out of business without even taking them to court? Do you doubt that almost every ISP in this country would block access to those IPs at the request of FedPig, even if there was no "law" requiring them to do so?

RE: Only $21M USD?
By Guspaz on 1/26/2013 3:24:33 PM , Rating: 4
I think that most ISPs never do what US law enforcement asks them, since most ISPs are not under their jurisdiction.

If somebody in the US asked my ISP to block an IP for a legal service, they'd get laughed at.

RE: Only $21M USD?
By Cheesew1z69 on 1/28/2013 8:34:34 AM , Rating: 1
The US ISPs aren't under the US jurisdiction?

By NanoTube1 on 1/25/2013 3:53:52 PM , Rating: 3
The only solution is to

( •_•)>¬¦-¦

Bomb Antigua

RE: Well...
By GulWestfale on 1/25/2013 6:56:39 PM , Rating: 1
with nukuleer weapons?
quick, get colin powell to fire up photoshop!

RE: Well...
By roykahn on 1/25/2013 9:56:49 PM , Rating: 5
Next week's headlines:

Pentagon officials claim Antigua are developing WMD's
Risk of Antigua's smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud
Antigua added to the axis of evil
God tells US president to attack Antigua
US president calls the war against piracy a "crusade"
US troops enter Antigua as part of humanitarian intervention

RE: Well...
By superstition on 1/27/2013 11:19:05 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot Joe Lieberman.

RE: Well...
By Strunf on 1/28/2013 8:46:47 AM , Rating: 2
or bring them democracy!

Cashing In
By hkscfreak on 1/27/2013 7:04:31 PM , Rating: 2
Time to move to Antigua and start a proxy service. Who's with me?

By Flunk on 1/25/13, Rating: -1
RE: Hilarious
By Motoman on 1/25/2013 1:45:09 PM , Rating: 4
Or, the USA could just stop being a d-bag towards Antigua. How long would that take?

RE: Hilarious
By Luticus on 1/25/2013 1:59:47 PM , Rating: 1
Yup, The US should stop being a D-Bag; however, I think it's more likely we'll see a trade embargo. :-) The top brass here is a bunch of greedy bastards with an inability to swallow their own pride. Embargo for sure...

RE: Hilarious
By maugrimtr on 1/28/2013 10:17:47 AM , Rating: 2
Such an Embargo would then be in breach of the WTO ruling. Antigua would have their compensation increase to match as well as drawing the ire of all the other WTO members as to what in heck the US is playing at...

RE: Hilarious
By Rukkian on 1/25/2013 2:01:56 PM , Rating: 2
It would take however long it would take for Antiguan Gambling sites to bribe (I mean give campaign contributions) to US congressmen that are bigger than what the industry in the US gives them. That is why this block is in place in the first place more than likely.

RE: Hilarious
By jimbojimbo on 1/25/2013 9:14:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. The politicians didn't get their cut so they block it. Somehow this is legal yet enterprising Italian families do it and it's not. What a sham.

RE: Hilarious
By daboom06 on 1/25/2013 2:05:11 PM , Rating: 2
as long as it takes to convince the american populace of a sob story. not saying it's not a worthy pursuit..

RE: Hilarious
By Motoman on 1/25/2013 2:12:31 PM , Rating: 1
...since when has the US government based it's actions on what the American populace thinks or wants?

RE: Hilarious
By ritualm on 1/25/2013 1:58:57 PM , Rating: 2
Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

RE: Hilarious
By stm1185 on 1/25/2013 7:06:33 PM , Rating: 1
The US Navy knows how to deal with pirates! Bye Bye Fiber Lines!

RE: Hilarious
By Devilboy1313 on 1/26/2013 12:20:32 AM , Rating: 2
Except that some of the "top brass" probably has some "enhanced retirement funds" in an Antigua bank.

RE: Hilarious
By roykahn on 1/26/2013 8:44:27 PM , Rating: 2
Haha, I haven't heard that one before. It's a reminder of the term "enhanced interrogation techniques".

RE: Hilarious
By ritualm on 1/29/2013 1:39:54 PM , Rating: 2
We don't call them "interrogation". That is such a dirty, negative word. We prefer the word "interviews".

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