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Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
antigua, copyright, music, trade dispute, wto

Companies:
riaa



Zookz! Misinterpreting The WTO To Annoy The RIAA

from the not-everyone-agrees dept

It's been quite some time since we last heard anything about the fascinating battle between the US and Antigua. It goes back a long time. We first wrote about this issue, nearly a decade ago, when the operators of online casinos in Antigua (where gambling is legal) were pretty pissed off to find out that the US claimed to have regulatory power over their online casino and could ban its use in the US. Antigua protested to the WTO, claiming that this was a violation of free trade agreements between the two countries. In 2004, the WTO agreed with Antigua, saying that because the US allows certain types of gambling, it's a violation of their agreement to ban Antiguan gambling sites. Of course, the US ignored the WTO and Antigua, recognizing that Antigua had little to no power over the US.

A year later, the WTO ruled again in favor of Antigua on this issue, though, amusingly, the US Trade Rep misleadingly claimed that the WTO had changed its mind. It had not. The US simply lied about what the WTO really said and declared victory, when it had actually lost again. The following year? The WTO again asked the US why it wasn't living up to its trade obligations on this point. In 2007, the WTO tried again and was ignored again.

In the midst of all this, a rather amusing and interesting suggestion popped up. In the random online discussions about how Antigua could actually flex its muscles against the US, someone pointed out that the WTO could allow Antigua to ignore US intellectual property, thereby allowing it to set up a cheap online download store. That idea gained traction at an incredibly fast pace, as lawyers jumped on the idea and set the wheels in motion. During that time, the US tried to unilaterally change its trade terms with Antigua to settle the matter, but that didn't get very far. Finally, at the end of 2007, the WTO agreed to letting Antigua ignore US intellectual property, but only to the tune of $21 million. Of course, the US quickly threatened Antigua not to go forward with any plans to violate US IP, but did little to rectify the situation. So last year, Antigua insisted it really (really, really, really!) was going to start ignoring US IP.

Since then? Well, it's been really quiet. Until now.

The LA Times has the story of a site called Zookz (from Carib Media), which claims to be taking advantage of the WTO ruling. It is, in fact, based in Antigua and is offering up unlimited music or movie downloads for $10/month -- or both music and movies for $18. Needless to say, the US government and the entertainment industry are vehemently opposed to Zookz interpretation of the WTO ruling -- especially when it comes to the fact that the Zookz service is apparently available outside of Antigua. Honestly, it seems like both sides are stretching the meaning of the ruling. The US and the entertainment industry basically want to completely ignore the WTO ruling, and interpret it to be entirely meaningless. That makes no sense, of course. The WTO wouldn't allow such sanctions unless there were a way to actually make use of them.

That said, it doesn't seem like the WTO ruling gave random private companies carte blanche to offer up music and movies. In fact, the Zookz interpretation gets even odder, where it interprets the $21 million to mean how much it can make, rather than the value "lost" to the industry. In fact, because of this Zookz claims that if it gets too close to selling $21 million (or if others enter the market, and combined they approach $21 million), they'll just have to start giving music and movies away for free to avoid going over the limit. While the WTO did want to give Antigua a weapon against the US, it's hard to believe that was what it meant. So, while this may be amusing to watch, the likelihood of Zookz lasting very long seems slim, at best.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2009 @ 2:53pm

    The Dashal Review

    By Dashal.com

    Get your hard drives ready, your 100 pack of DVDs and CDRs at Best Buy and at least a 12 pack of Diet coke to get ready for the official launch of ZookZ, a website offering unlimited movies or music for $9.95 or $17.95 for both.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Zookz.com is the coolest website online today after having tested it for several weeks. It is extremely addicting and you will find yourself wanting more, more, more. I have been purchasing music on iTunes since their launch and enjoyed having music, however their $1.30 a song is just crazy and I think I downloaded two songs from them since. I have never been a fan of Napster or Music Rhapsody because I wanted to KEEP what I paid for. So when Dashal was offered the chance to test ZookZ, how could we refuse? The question we had to ask ourselves beforehand though is ZookZ legal? I am all about an enormous music and movie catalog, but not to the point where I am getting fined millions. So we did our research and due diligence and is ZookZ actually legal?

    Is ZookZ Legal? Surprisingly YES!!!

    ZookZ is actually a company based in Antigua and, because of a 2007 WTO ruling between Antigua and the United States, allows consumers’ access to material that is normally restricted by US copyright law. When you download movies or music from Zookz.com you are actually downloading it directly off their secure servers. ZookZ isn’t a peer to peer file network. So you are not downloading from someone else’s personal catalog, you are downloading directly from ZookZ. It could be one of the craziest loop holes in the legal system to date, but it is there. Dashal Inc. is not an attorney nor do we pretend to be, this is just our understanding of the WTO decision, so you should do your own research. Even though you may download legally, be sure not to share it with anyone else. If they want movies and music, I would suggest they get their separate ZookZ account because that is something entirely different.

    Will ZookZ price go up in the future? Of course it will, that is business, but right now it is incredibly cheap. If you download 1 album or movie per month you made your money back. Imagine if you can download as much as you want for the same price?

    Like I said in my previous Zookz.com review, their website definitely needs improvements. I have received a large amount of emails in regards to their not having a queue system in place etc. But for $9.95 can we really complain?

    I was a little concerned at first because of ZookZ’s limited catalog, but I have not even come close to wondering what I should download next. Songs and movies pop up everyday and ZookZ will practically upload what you want, all you have to do is ask via their request line.

    ZookZ has an amazing business model and there is no limit to their success; however who knows how long legalities can be in their favor, so I suggest taking full advantage of ZookZ while you can.

    Sit back, crack open your diet coke and be prepared to be up until 4am downloading those albums and movies that you always wanted to download but money stopped you. Zookz.com is no brainer.

    Nick Harrison – Creative Director for Dashal.com
    nharrison@dashal.com

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