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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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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!


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