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

Comments     Threshold

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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.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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