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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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
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!!

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