In startling news for those of us not keeping up with World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings on gambling and copyright-related issues, Antigua and Barbuda announced that today they will seek "final authorisation" to launch a site offering U.S. content, possibly including music, movies and software, without compensation to rights holders. This option was initially offered by the WTO in 2007 due to the U.S. blocking internet gambling via Antigua and Barbuda.
"On 21 March 2003, Antigua and Barbuda requested consultations with the US regarding measures applied by central, regional and local authorities in the US which affect the cross-border supply of gambling and betting services. Antigua and Barbuda considered that the cumulative impact of the US measures is to prevent the supply of gambling and betting services from another WTO Member to the United States on a cross-border basis."
In 2007 the case was decided in Antigua and Barbuda's favor:
"In an unusual ruling Friday at the World Trade Organization, the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua won the right to violate copyright protections on goods like films and music from the United States - worth up to $21 million - as part of a dispute between the two countries over online gambling."
Given that online gambling in the U.S. is potentially quite lucrative, Antigua and Barbuda initially "claimed annual damages of $3.44 billion."
This may be why Colin Murdoch, "Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the 8th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference," claimed in a dramatic statement last month to the WTO that they had been "handed the ultimate Pyrrhic victory."
But the opening line was the best: "I come neither to bury Caesar nor to praise him."
Though the WTO gave Antigua and Barbuda the go ahead back in 2007, apparently they have been using this threat as a bargaining chip with the U.S. because they recognized that they could make much more money satisfying American gamblers legally than they can by legally ripping off U.S. copyright holders.
A lawyer representing Antigua and Barbuda told Reuters that, "We've heard a lot more from them (the U.S. negotiators) over the past two weeks than over the past 10 years." He also stated that they still wanted to negotiate a resolution that allows them to offer gambling.
TorrentFreak noted that the U.S. had managed to block further discussion in December and so today is Antigua and Barbuda's next attempt. Given that the WTO has already ruled in their favor, it's unlikely that the States can continue such delaying tactics for very long.
TorrentFreak is seeking more details of what would launch if the U.S. doesn't change their tune, revealing that "one option would be to ask users for $5 a month in return for unlimited access to U.S. media."
Assuming Antigua and Barbuda do follow through with such a site for media downloads, look for possible arguments between the U.S. and Antigua and Barbuda over media valuation. Honestly, unless the internet connections to the two islands are "accidentally" cut off, it's highly unlikely the U.S. is going to change the outcome.
Some of the implications include the fact that filesharers who trade in illegal content will then have excellent copies of media to seed their torrents. Other nations wishing to offer online gambling services to U.S. citizens may then bring suit via the WTO. And untold numbers of U.S. copyright holders will be stressing out online and contacting U.S. legislators who are unlikely to do anything but pass the buck.
Honestly, if this move is made, we're no longer talking about outliers like Kim Dotcom. I'd be more worried about highly armed renegade leaders such as Kim Jong-un.
Update: Today the WTO gave the final ok for Antigua and Barbuda to suspend U.S. copyrights and sell whatever digital content they so desire which is likely to be music, movies and software.
[Thumbnail image courtesy Derek Hatfield.]