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Print 26 comment(s) - last by antigua_NNTP.. on Feb 4 at 7:11 AM

WTO blesses $21M USD in year in copyright nullification to punish U.S. ban on online gambling

Antigua and Barbuda's online gambling industry was once thriving, employing around 4,000 of the nation's approximately 81,000 citizens.  But the industry -- and the island's economy -- was decimated when the U.S. Congress filed rules forcing U.S. internet service providers to block the island's gambling portals, all while leaving similar portals run by U.S. businesses open.  Today, Antigua's gambling industry is only able to employ around 500 citizens.

But the island nation is striking back thanks to a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that allows it to essentially engage in for-profit "piracy", to punish the U.S. for its protectionism.  

The WTO, an arbitrary panel of the world's nations, had ordered the U.S. to remove blocks on Antiguan gambling sites back in 2005.  The U.S. ignored the order.  Last month the U.S. deftly managed to shelve a vote on its "punishment" for the brazen defiance -- a streaming subscription site reselling copyright U.S. works, with the Antiguan government pocketing the profit.

Normally the WTO allows countries to resolve such disputes using tariff increases.  But the Antiguan scenario is somewhat unique as the nation is so tiny and the impact so extreme that tariffs would do little to remedy the situation.  As a result the WTO allowed Antigua to resell (and effectively infringe on) up to $21M USD of copyrighted work from the U.S. a year.  While drastically short of the $3.44B USD in fines Antigua had originally requested, the plan at least is a moral victory for the nation's damaged economy.

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

The new portal will offer music, software, movies, and TV-shows from the U.S. to people worldwide, but be limited such that the total revenue does not exceed the allowed damages.  The WTO and Antiguan lawyers say the site is not "piracy" as it is a legal punishment against the U.S. for unfair trade practices.  The U.S. calls the site "government-authorized piracy" in official statements.

Nkenge Harmon, a spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative's office has suggested that there may be "consequences" if the island nation continues its WTO-blessed plan. The spokesperson commented, "The United States has urged Antigua to consider solutions that would benefit its broader economy.  However, Antigua has repeatedly stymied these negotiations with certain unrealistic demands."

Harold Lovell, Antigua’s Finance Minister, scoffs at such threats, commenting to TorrentFreak, "These aggressive efforts to shut down the remote gaming industry in Antigua has resulted in the loss of thousands of good paying jobs and seizure by the Americans of billions of dollars belonging to gaming operators and their customers in financial institutions across the world."

"If the same type of actions, by another nation, caused the people and the economy of the United States to be so significantly impacted, Antigua would without hesitation support their pursuit of justice."

Sources: Antiguan Government, TorrentFreak



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heh?
By Manch on 1/29/2013 5:28:44 PM , Rating: 2
I cant see people buying illegal copies when they can just download illegal copies for free.




RE: heh?
By fellix on 1/29/2013 5:46:20 PM , Rating: 2
Piracy - The Better Choice!™ ...especially when it's free.


RE: heh?
By hughlle on 1/29/2013 6:03:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yet plenty of people pay for subscriptions to various sites to allow them to download illegal content, such as say a rapid share subscription or a Usenet subscription.


RE: heh?
By Manch on 1/30/2013 1:52:33 AM , Rating: 2
fair enough. since this has a 21M cap you wont be able get anything after Antigua has collected that amount in fees?

Me personally I've never used a rapid share subscription or a Usenet subscription but to each their own.


RE: heh?
By semiconshawn on 1/30/2013 8:39:30 AM , Rating: 3
I refuse to pay to steal.


RE: heh?
By Denithor on 1/30/2013 11:00:52 AM , Rating: 2
Nicely worded there.


RE: heh?
By PrinceGaz on 1/30/2013 2:37:22 PM , Rating: 2
Not everyone who pays for access to a premium Usenet service only uses it to download illegal content. There are plenty of fully legal and legitimate uses for Usenet such as downloading the latest linux distros and other kinds of things which aren't copyrighted.


RE: heh?
By rs2 on 1/29/2013 6:29:36 PM , Rating: 3
That would be true if what people were buying were in fact illegal copies. But according to the article, any content purchased through this service is 100% legitimate.

So no worrying about threatening letters, ridiculous lawsuits, three-strikes laws, etc.. To some people that could be worth $5.


RE: heh?
By augiem on 1/29/13, Rating: 0
RE: heh?
By Motoman on 1/29/2013 10:34:06 PM , Rating: 3
I'm guessing they think they're in a position of authority with regards to trade worldwide. Which, of course, they are.


RE: heh?
By augiem on 1/30/2013 12:33:52 AM , Rating: 1
Regulating trade between countries (goods being exchanged) and counterfeiting said goods are two completely different issues. This is a case of counterfeiting, but of course because it's digital goods the same standards are not applied. Would the WTO have the authority to tell Antigua they can make knockoff Nike sh0es in order to punish the US?


RE: heh?
By danjw1 on 1/30/2013 11:38:18 AM , Rating: 2
Actually they do. It is in the WTO treaty. The United States signed it, the Senate ratified it. Our government might like to sling around the word piracy, but it isn't appropriate for this site. We violated a treaty we agreed to, now we have to pay the price. Your outrage is misplaced. How about thinking about those thousands that are out of work because of our governments arbitrary actions in violation of an international treaty we signed?


RE: heh?
By Manch on 1/30/2013 1:47:46 AM , Rating: 2
Well, I understand the WTO has authorized it as a way to punish the US in its dispute with Antigua, but I don't know that Adobe would provide you product suppt for your Antiguan copy of photoshop. Plus since all of these products will be of US origin which the US does not recognize as legal, I don't see how anyone in the states could buy it without getting in any less trouble than say getting it from piratebay.


RE: heh?
By Darkefire on 1/29/2013 6:28:34 PM , Rating: 2
For the same reason people switched to iTunes and Steam, reliability and ease-of-use are key concerns to anyone downloading digital media. Torrents can be spotty if they're not as popular and file locker links are at the mercy of DMCA takedowns, if the Antiguan site offers a fast connection and a low monthly fee they'll attract a great many subscribers (although if $21M per year is a hard limit, they'll hit that within days, if not hours). It'll be interesting to see how the US instructs ISPs to deal with the site, the fact that the Pirate Bay has remained accessible makes me think they'll just be pulling their hair out in impotent fury.


RE: heh?
By sigmatau on 1/29/2013 7:36:03 PM , Rating: 2
I have yet to see anything come remotely close to what torrents offer. In terms of speed, "release" time, and amount of content.

Name one another source that comes even a little close to what you can get from torrents.

Let's take TV shows. I can get an episode that just played for the first time within an hour or two of its first airing. I usually can download it in just a few minutes and it is available in standard or high definition (usualy 720p.)

Who else can do this? No one.


RE: heh?
By vapore0n on 1/30/2013 7:40:02 AM , Rating: 2
Remember, torrents are just the medium used to distribute, not the source.
The source is people like you and me that upload the content to the hive.
Who can do this? Anyone, as long as someone uploads the content. Usenets provide a lot of this type of almost instant available too.


Do as we say, not as we do....
By Amiga500 on 1/29/2013 5:56:32 PM , Rating: 4
Didn't the rest of the world get the memo?




RE: Do as we say, not as we do....
By ritualm on 1/29/2013 8:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
China has already nailed you on that one, sorry.


RE: Do as we say, not as we do....
By roykahn on 1/29/2013 8:15:08 PM , Rating: 3
That's been one of the pillars of US foreign policy for decades. The same can be said for so-called free trade agreements.


RE: Do as we say, not as we do....
By mcnabney on 1/30/2013 9:54:28 AM , Rating: 1
Uhm, outside of a few categories - sugar and steel are good examples - the US is usually the victim in trade. The rare-earth mining industry has ceased to exist in the US (there is plenty to mine, but China will sell them for less than the extraction costs here), and now after dumping for 10-15 years they are manipulating the market and jacking-up the price.


RE: Do as we say, not as we do....
By roykahn on 1/30/2013 7:57:01 PM , Rating: 3
Umm, sorry but America's foreign policy is built around trade bullying. I don't even know where to start. The United Fruit Company in South America, the oil companies in the Middle East and Africa, all the major US agribusinesses anywhere. Monsanto. Ever wondered why Clinton ordered an increase in border protection after NAFTA was implemented?

I am so gob-smacked by your comment.


RE: Do as we say, not as we do....
By tamalero on 1/31/2013 11:14:20 AM , Rating: 2
Agree,

Mexico suffered on this as well in the TUNA industry and in transportation.
despite the supposed free trade agreements.. the US still blocked critical stuff that was supposed to be allowed. ( on convenience of course)


Grenada...
By name99 on 1/29/2013 7:58:44 PM , Rating: 5
The US has been perfectly willing to invade (or attempt to invade, or support the takeover of) various countries around the world on commercial grounds, from Guatemala to Cuba to Iran.

If this gains any traction, I imagine we'll start hearing various BS about how terrorist groups are infiltrating the government in Antigua (bonus if somehow Cuba and/or Venezuela are tied in as bankrolling the terrorists). At some point the situation for average Antiguans will be called intolerable, and the US will be "forced" to invade to "restore order". This playbook has been followed a zillion times, from Hitler's Czechoslovakia adventure to, heck, Iraq in 2003.

The interesting question is: will the US get away with it? It's no longer the 1950s, the world is rather more transparent, and Antigua is close to the US and no hellhole. The US didn't really get away with Iraq, and that was a situation where even people against the invasion admitted that Hussein was a monster.




RE: Grenada...
By roykahn on 1/29/2013 8:40:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
At some point the situation for average Antiguans will be called intolerable, and the US will be "forced" to invade to "restore order". This playbook has been followed a zillion times, from Hitler's Czechoslovakia adventure to, heck, Iraq in 2003.


Exactly. It all comes down to the language one uses and it's all part of the formula one uses to impose one's will on another. The CIA are experts at it and borrowed many of their techniques from the Nazis.

The powerful will not simply allow the weak to improve their situation and challenge the existing power structure. Look at the consequences of any country that considered a communist system or improved the welfare of their poor. Even the word "socialism" is tainted in most elite circles. If major foreign investors are inconvenienced then to hell with your democractically elected leader.

Regarding your question about transparency - don't forget that many governments abuse the ability to classify information as secret so there's little you can do unless you want to become the next Bradley Manning. The mass media continues to fail us and hold leaders accountable, so we must rely on whilstleblowers to expose corruption and lies.


RE: Grenada...
By ptmmac on 1/30/2013 12:22:12 AM , Rating: 2
I think you are being naive in a way. Your description of American foreign policy is spot on. The Congress doesnt care about American jobs. This is simple bribery of our congress by the mob. I doubt we would be willing to invade to protect the mobs interests. That would be too unseemly. But break internation law? No problem. Most Americans love poking any internaional power structure in the eye. Two birds meet one stone: raise money and get more votes at the same time. Congress loves that kind of deal!!


By antigua_NNTP on 2/4/2013 7:11:29 AM , Rating: 2
usenet IS NOT piracy.

One may fetch media one licenses via cable/satellite much less expensively than ultra retarded dvr "service". dvr provided by cable/sat companies not surprisingly suffer feature death and torture bits (horrible "quality")

internet + TV + usenet < internet + tv + multiple DVRs

(only an imbecile purchases voip from cable/fios : 1970s "features" at huge markup)




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