US Still 'Warning' Antigua That It Better Not Set Up Piracy Hub, Even As WTO Gives Approval

from the more-sword-waving dept

This is hardly a surprise given the decade-long history we’ve gone through concerning the US’s attempts to screw over Antigua by violating a trade agreement, and then ignoring, repeatedly, efforts by the WTO to make things right. Given that the WTO gave initial permission for Antigua to set up shop infringing on US intellectual property all the way back in 2007, it appears that Antigua has been nothing but patient. However, last week, it finally started making moves to put this “store” in place.

In response, the US has gone typically ballistic, threatening all sorts of consequences and blaming Antigua for the problems:

The United States warned Antigua and Barbuda on Monday not to retaliate against U.S. restrictions on Internet gambling by suspending American copyrights or patents, a move it said would authorize the “theft” of intellectual property like movies and music.

“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,” said Nkenge Harmon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.

Of course, what the US claims isn’t supported by, well, anyone else. The WTO has now officially signed off (yet again) on the plan. Apparently the 2007 permission was merely “preliminary,” but now it’s official. The WTO says this is a perfectly legitimate way for Antigua to hit back at the US for its flagrant violation of international trade agreements in trying to shut down Antigua based online gambling sites.

As for Antigua’s response to the US threats, the country’s legal representative Mark Mendel told Wired (the link above) a bunch of things (go read the whole article), but I think this sums up the key points:

“I do think that the US has a mixed, immature and difficult domestic situation with respect to gambling in general and remote gambling in particular,” Mendel told Wired.co.uk. “However, I think the main reason the US has not complied with the WTO rulings is that Antigua is such a small country they think they can get away with it. I also think that, unfortunately, some people in the US government were almost offended that Antigua chose to challenge the US and have been so persistent in its pursuit of justice that the US government has adopted unusually harsh and unyielding lines that have made it difficult to consider our issue in its proper context.”

Sounds about right.

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Comments on “US Still 'Warning' Antigua That It Better Not Set Up Piracy Hub, Even As WTO Gives Approval”

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83 Comments
silverscarcat says:

They did....

“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,” said Nkenge Harmon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.”

They had online gambling and had well over 2000 people employed in it, but thanks to the United States’ meddling, that number is now under 500.

And, unrealistic demands? What unrealistic demands? It’s not like they’re asking for toilets made out of solid gold, are they?

Then again, maybe they should ask for wrenches, hammers and toilet seats.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

“However, I think the main reason the US has not complied with the WTO rulings is that Antigua is such a small country they think they can get away with it. I also think that, unfortunately, some people in the US government were almost offended that Antigua chose to challenge the US and have been so persistent in its pursuit of justice that the US government has adopted unusually harsh and unyielding lines that have made it difficult to consider our issue in its proper context.”

Replace a few words and that would sum up many overreactions by the US Government. Whether you’re a digital activist, disruptive entreprenuer, or a small country, the US certainly has a ‘might is right’ mindset.

Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

I think the conversation on this topic would benefit from more precise language. Just as ‘piracy’ is not ‘theft’, the exemption granted by the WTO to Antigua is not approval to commit ‘piracy’. Since the US is a member state of the WTO, and as such agreed to an exemption from copyright being a potential remedy, this exemption amounts to an authorization to use and distribute works copyrighted under US copyright law, which by way of binding international agreements is functionally authorized by the US itself. It’s almost like an anti-copyright. US rights holders are excluded from asserting their right to exclude.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Is water wet? Does the pope wear a funny hat?

Yeah, considering the whole six-strikes system is being put in place due to ‘suggestions’ from the entertainment industry and their employees, I’m betting this site will top the list of ‘sites that will get you a hit on the six-strikes plan’. Even just visiting it will probably be enough to trigger an accusation sent to the account holder.

Zos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

that would really depend on the technology used. from the sound of it, they’re picturing either more like a subscription service of a few bucks a month, which if done right and completey said “fuck yourself” to american laws, could be a huge hit…and probably cause the mpaa to declare war via their minions.

or it could be a microtransaction site, where you’re paying a la cart, but i’m betting streamed, rather than giving you the content.
Either way, i’m sure that US Ip addy’s would be filtered, so you’d need a proxy, plus since it probably wouldn’t be using open torrents, 6 strikes wouldn’t really adress it at all. (obviously there’s a lot of speculation there, just going by what’s been said so far, and the fact that they’d want to monetize this + some common sense).

Assuming they don’t fuck it up completely by going for a cash grab.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Interesting legal question, will this site be covered under the six strikes plan in the US?”

That’s not a legal question, because the six strikes plan is a ToS deal, not law.

Anyway, to answer your question: No.

BusinessWeek addressed the legal issue in their article:

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2013-01-28/antigua-gets-ok-to-become-copyright-haven

“Antiguans may be allowed to download freely, but for those outside the country the legal regime remains murky.”

In other words, it’s legal for US citizens to buy from this site unless a judge rules otherwise. So if you’re “caught,” the penalty will currently be absolutely nothing.

And how would they legally catch you? Purchases from a website are not public torrent swarms.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

BusinessWeek is blowing smoke and pushing FUD, since the legal regime for downloading outside of Antigua is exactly the same international copyright regime that Antigua has to abide by internally.

In other words the selling, purchasing, downloading, or otherwise of these works is NOT piracy is NOT illegal or unlawful and is NOT punishable in any court system or country that is a member state of the WTO.

For any court or authority in any of these member states to punish or declare unlawful/illegal for there own citizens any of the above would immediately be a breach of the binding WTO agreements, which would result in further sanctions against the country that did this.

Can we all please stop calling this Piracy. when in fact it is purely authorised and legal for these works to be sold/obtained in this way.

Interestingly the copyright holders might have an actionable claim on the United States Government though I can see the USG claiming sovereign immunity on that.

If this effects the ‘six strike’ system then the first place anyone should go is to a court AND NOT the arbitration hearing and counter sue the ISP for both alleging illegal/unlawful acts on something that is absolutely legal.

jameshogg says:

The irony is, countries like China and Antigua would not be able to gain any incentive from pirating if there were no copyright laws to begin with.

We don’t need them. Artists can get incentives to fund their works through refundable crowdfunding, plus whatever the free market reckons an artist is worth (people will naturally pay more if it provides more of an innovative incentive, even if the artist ends up filthy rich – we see how that is the situation already).

Once people start funding creativity like this, and once copyright is abandoned, China has nothing to profit from. You heard it correctly: copyright causes piracy, especially overseas piracy and makes morons like Kim Dotcom a modern day Al Capone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

perhaps the irony is lost on you… Antigua did not want to setup a ‘copyright free zone’ to sell American material…

They wanted to continue running their existing online gambling operations which were employing a lot of people and generating revenue for them.

This interfered with the ‘mob owned’ casinos that operate in the US, and was deemed ‘felony interference with our business model’ thus producing laws that made online gambling ‘illegal’, eliminating one source of competition for the US owned casinos (which I’m sure contribute much more to US politicians than those based in Antigua….)

I messed with online gambling years ago (before the ban), and always assumed that the games/odds were rigged, but even rigged games have to pay out once in a while or the site would get such a bad rep that nobody would use it. Was it a coincidence that I would usually get a big ‘win’ just as I was about to lose my online bankroll? Probably, but I cashed out enough times to make money off them rather than lose it by using this against them (in tracking things for a month, I won 18 of the 20 bets that would have wiped me out and required me to add more funds or stop playing…. sure it was just a coincidence).

If fools want to be parted from their money by ‘gambling’, I say let them, and if they choose to do so online rather than in a dark smoky room with no outside light and no clocks, I say let them…

The Old Man in The Sea says:

Hang on, hang on here, The USA government is the victim here!!!

Remember folks, that the USA is a sovereign state ruled by higher law and we have here another sovereign state that is going against that higher law.

Since the USA government is the victim here, the rule of higher law should take precedence over anything else.

But then again maybe we should use the even higher law of Canadia!!

jameshogg says:

Re: Re:

I’m ashamed to say that I’d find it interesting if it did happen.

And because I am that cynical, I can imagine the anti-war Left suddenly U-turning and justifying a strike against Antigua in the name of “stopping stealing”. Or perhaps they will end up buying some other questionable cause being spewed out left right and centre. It can happen. The Left were quite silent when Bill Clinton unjustly rocketed the only pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, and quite a few portions of the Left supported the Vietnam war. According to the Left, calling Bill Clinton a war criminal was being an extremist, a crazy Right-winger or just not seeing the so-called “qualities” of Clinton.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let’s see. On the one hand, blowing up a pharmaceutical plant in one country.
On the other, invading two countries, one on totally made-up ‘evidence’ and causing untold deaths and misery, and monumentally cocking up both of those wars as badly as the afore-mentioned Vietnam. Plus invading some other sovereign nations in previous administrations just for the fun of it.

Remind me, which is worse for sheer nastiness, Right or Left?

kenichi tanaka says:

The United States and the WTO are a joke. Whenever the WTO rules for the U.S. Government and for copyright law, the government seems to be willing to accept their judgment.

But, when the WTO rules against the U.S. Government, the Federal Government acts like no decision was issued and thinks that they can simply ignore the WTO.

Here’s an idea for the U.S. Government, accept the WTO decision.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: 1 down, 50 more to go.

Here’s an idea for the U.S. Government, accept the WTO decision.

That’s fine until some DA in Memphis decides to start extraditing people. That’s the really clueless part about Antigua’s position in all of this. They seem to acknowledge the Puritanical aspects of the US in this regard but only partially.

We have our own internal disputes about what is acceptable. Never mind some pissant island in the Carribean.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 1 down, 50 more to go.

I have a better idea don’t break trade agreements that leads to WTO punishing you. Trade agreements are bilateral, it’s all give and take, this time they tried to take without giving and got burned by WTO. And now they’re gonna pretend to be the victim in this case? Sickeningly hypocritical…

alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

Prep the cyber-terror attacks on Antigua

Wouldn’t surprise me if the U.S. takes several actions.

1. Cyber-terror against Antigua
2. Slips in anti-Antigua language into secret trade agreements with other countries
3. Sends the CIA into Antigua to take out select targets (human, infrastructure…)
4. Manipulates ICANN to shut down the DNS of Antigua originating IP blocks somehow
5. Use Antigua as new material written by Chris Dodd as to further proof that piracy is illegal, harms American artists and deserves U.N. sanctions…

Anonymous Coward says:

‘the decade-long history we’ve gone through concerning the US’s attempts to screw over Antigua by violating a trade agreement’

since when did it stop at Antigua? just about every country on the planet, in particular the smaller ones that have almost a zilch chance of defending themselves, have suffered from the bullying of the USA. it needs to stop! the interests of the US are not more important than the interests of anywhere else!

maclypse (profile) says:

WTO, UN, Geneva convention… pick an international forum, document or agreement and it’s the same thing all over, and it’s not exactly a new thing:

“Our way or the highway.”

Even when vetod in the UN, the US still gathered its laughable coalition of the willing and went to war. Everyone has to do what the US says, and the US doesn’t have to do anything that anyone says. Old news.

I’m just waiting for someone, somewhere to grow a pair and say “With all due respect, mr President, I think we’ll try the highway.” Preferably they should record said conversation, threats and all, and release it to the media at the same time.

Honestly, the US owes everyone money, produces little to nothing of anything, and keeps shooting in all directions. If just HALF of the world’s nations set up trade blockades against the US, the country would be in the stone ages within months. I don’t understand why countries keep obeying a country that’s quickly becoming morally, legally and financially bankrupt.

Forgive me for going all Reagan but maybe it’s time to “Just Say No!”

DannyB (profile) says:

Don't forget the overhead using Hollywood Accounting

Poor Antigua, even with WTO approved sanctions against the US allowing Antigua to ignore US copyrights, they may never make back their $21 Million judgement.

First Antigua would have to set up a store to sell US copyrighted property. Then Antigua would need to set up various government agencies that bill “fees” to the store, thus causing the store not to be profitable.

Those stores might have to sell Billions and Billions of dollars worth of US IP before they become profitable enough to recoup the WTO award of $21 Million. I mean Star Wars still isn’t profitable.

The US might object, but under Hollywood Accounting rules, this is acceptable practice.

Pvblivs says:

Small country

That theory would make a lot more sense if the US allowed internal online gambling. But that’s not allowed either. I can understand a blanket prohibition on online gambling. It is not possible to verify that the dice and cards are “fair.” They can’t be tested. Physical dice and cards can be examined by a regulatory authority.

By way of analogy, the US has prohibited a product citing safety standards. Antigua wanted to market an unsafe product to US citizens and has instead gained an authorization to steal from US citizens.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Small country

I can understand a blanket prohibition on online gambling. It is not possible to verify that the dice and cards are “fair.”

Even if that’s true, which I doubt (difficult yes, but with so much money at stake I’m sure a solution could be found), I don’t think that’s the real reason for the ban.

Antigua wanted to market an unsafe product to US citizens and has instead gained an authorization to steal from US citizens.

Except that stealing is a poor analogy for copyright infringement, and you have also presented no evidence that Antiguan gambling sites are fraudulent. I don’t see why an analogy is necessary anyway; this isn’t that complicated.

Pvblivs says:

Re: Re: Small country

I use the term “unsafe” (and not “sham”) because there is no way to confirm that any given gambling site is legitimate. A given online casino could be legitimate; but it is strictly honor system. As for the government’s actual motives, I will grant that I can’t know them. But I do think it is significant that the US has not just banned imports of the product (online gambling.) It as banned the product itself.

“Except that stealing is a poor analogy for copyright infringement,”

Stealing is a very good analogy for copyright infringement. If you are trying to make and sell content (for example, some webcomic artists collect their works into books for sale) and someone just photocopies the work and distributes it far and wide himself so that you don’t get paid, the proceeds that you have made have been stolen from you.

“I don’t see why an analogy is necessary anyway; this isn’t that complicated.”

It is complicated enough that people are failing to see that there might be a reason other than “barrier to trade.” And people seem to understand physical products a little better.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Small country

there is no way to confirm that any given gambling site is legitimate.

Today, no. It would be possible to establish systems for ensuring legitimacy.

someone just photocopies the work and distributes it far and wide himself so that you don’t get paid, the proceeds that you have made have been stolen from you.

What it is, exactly, that you had before this event that you do not have after? Money? No – you’re talking about money you might have made but now didn’t*. Things? No – the other person didn’t take any things away, he made copies. So what is it that’s been stolen?

* if you run a pizza place and someone opens another pizza place across the street, there is money that you might have made that now you won’t because of the competition – did he steal from you?

Pvblivs says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Small country

“hat it is, exactly, that you had before this event that you do not have after? Money? No – you’re talking about money you might have made but now didn’t*. Things? No – the other person didn’t take any things away, he made copies. So what is it that’s been stolen?”

This is in the same sense of if you work for a company and the company decides that you have to keep working there for several years but there will be no paychecks coming. You didn’t already have that money, so they didn’t steal from you, right? Wrong, they stole your efforts. The difference in a competing pizza parlor is that the other pizza parlor could be open and run even if you hadn’t put any effort into your own. When somebody makes a copy of your authorship, he is not expending a separate effort. He is making his money off of your effort and causing you to derive no benefit.

If the competing pizza parlor worked by somehow canning and making copies of your pizzas out of thin air (so that he didn’t have to put his own effort into it) then it would be stealing. The reason a competing pizza parlor is not stealing is that he is making his own pizzas; he’s is not taking your efforts.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Small country

You didn’t already have that money, so they didn’t steal from you, right? Wrong, they stole your efforts.

If they refuse to pay you for work you have already done, yes, they’re essentially stealing money that they owe you. If they inform you that you will not be getting paid in the future, then obviously nothing has been stolen. It’s possible that could be a breach of contract, but that isn’t theft.

If the competing pizza parlor worked by somehow canning and making copies of your pizzas out of thin air (so that he didn’t have to put his own effort into it) then it would be stealing.

I think I need to see your definition of “steal”, because that doesn’t sound like any definition I’m familiar with. You’re saying if I invent (or buy) a Star Trek style replicator, buy one of your pizzas, and set up shop across the street selling replicated pizzas, that I’m stealing pizza from you? Or is it money I’m stealing? Either way, that just doesn’t make any sense, because I’m not taking anything away from you that you own.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Small country

As for the government’s actual motives, I will grant that I can’t know them. But I do think it is significant that the US has not just banned imports of the product (online gambling.) It as banned the product itself.

Forgot to mention – I should have been explicit here. I believe the government’s ulterior motive is to protect state lotteries and campaign contributors (casinos, horse tracks) from competition. This motive applies equally to domestic and foreign sources of competition.

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