10 Years Later: Antigua May Finally (Really) Set Up Official 'Pirate' Site To Get Back What US Owes In Sanctions
from the watch-this-space dept
Well here’s a story that’s more than a decade in the making. Way back in 2003, we first wrote about Antigua filing for sanctions against the US for its ban on online gambling. Antigua argued (with fairly strong support) that this violated a trade agreement between the US and Antigua, by blocking a form of free trade. The case was at the WTO for years, bouncing around. In 2004, the WTO ruled against the US, which the US promptly ignored. In 2005, the WTO again ruled in favor of Antigua on the issue, and the US (stunningly) responded by pretending that it had won, when it most clearly had not. Following that, the US pretended that it could just unilaterally change its free trade agreement to carve out gambling. Not surprisingly, Antigua (and the WTO) found that to be problematic.
It goes without saying that the US is big and powerful and Antigua… is not. So, as it became clear that the US intended to ignore any WTO ruling, people began to wonder if there was any remedy for Antigua over this issue. Normally, the WTO could do something with trade sanctions against the US and in favor of Antigua, but given how much Antigua relies on US trade, that would likely hurt Antigua a lot more than the US. Somewhere in the midst of this — around 2006 — someone somewhere floated the idea that one way that Antigua could be made whole would be to allow it to ignore US copyright laws, allowing it to “sell” copyrighted content on the cheap, without paying any royalties. That idea took on a life of its own and Antigua began pushing the idea itself around 2007. The world community started to side with Antigua over this, recognizing that the US was being completely unfair here… and the US did what the US does, and bought off a bunch of big countries to get them to shut up and stop supporting Antigua.
In late 2007, the WTO finally said that this plan of retaliatory copyright infringement could go forward in Antigua, but limited to just $21 million worth of infringement. Even so, the US immediately warned Antigua not to even think about it, or it would retaliate. There were some negotiations between the two countries that went nowhere and then… a lot of nothing. We’ve barely touched on the story since 2008 when Antigua once again threatened to (no, really this time!) launch a copyright infringing store with “permission” from the WTO. But, that didn’t happen.
However, reports are now coming out that Antigua finally has plans in place to launch just such a store. Of course, we’ll believe it when we see it, considering the decade-long posturing over this issue. Oh yeah, and, once again, the US is warning Antigua not to move forward, claiming that Antigua is acting in “bad faith” and launching the store might “serve to postpone the final resolution of this matter.” Considering that the US lost at the WTO nearly a decade ago, and still hasn’t “resolved” the matter, that’s a fairly ridiculous claim. And, of course, the US is threatening to “retaliate” if Antigua goes forward:
“In these circumstances, Antigua has no justification for taking any retaliatory actions against the United States. Moreover, if Antigua actually proceeds with a plan for its government to authorize the theft of intellectual property, it would only serve to hurt Antigua’s own interests. Government-authorized piracy would undermine chances for a settlement that would provide real benefits to Antigua. It also would serve as a major impediment to foreign investment in the Antiguan economy, particularly in high-tech industries.”
So, the short version from the US’s point of view is that it’s fine to ignore its own trade agreements that wrecked a significant part of Antigua’s economy — but as soon as Antigua fights back and wins, it’s not allowed to make use of WTO-approved remedies after years and years of the US refusing to fix its abuses. And somehow when it finally (years and years later) moves forward with this other plan… the US argues that it would harm its international obligations? The hubris from the US is (once again) incredible, if not particularly surprising.