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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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RE: heh?
By augiem on 1/29/2013 8:19:38 PM , Rating: 0
Legitimate? According to whom? The WTO? They have no authority over this intellectual property. They are putting their stamp of approval on theft from the content creators and owners. This has nothing to do with the US government. Who the hell do they think they are?

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?

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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