Since 2003, we've been following the saga of Antigua's fight against the US
in the World Trade Organization. Basically, Antigua argued that the US's ban on online gambling violated the free trade agreement
the two countries had signed -- as it blocked online gambling sites based in Antigua (of which there are a bunch). Since then, the case has been fun to watch if only for how the US has responded to it. The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua
at which point the US basically ignored the WTO, despite the WTO occasionally making angry noises
. Then, there was the time that the US went so far as to declare that the WTO had reversed that original ruling on appeal... but the details showed that the US was making up that claim
and the WTO was still supporting Antigua. Earlier this year, after the WTO started stomping its feet again, the US responded by saying it was simply (unilaterally) going to change its free trade agreement
with Antigua, so that online gambling wasn't included. Obviously, Antigua finds that solution quite troublesome.
Back in early 2006, however, a few people began buzzing about an idea that Antigua could use to force the US to pay attention: become an WTO-backed ignorer of US copyright law. Since the US knew it could effectively ignore Antigua over online gambling, the idea was that Antigua should simply say that if the US won't support its free trade agreement, then it would start ignoring US copyright laws
, and would then (with WTO-backing, mind you) allow modern versions of all sorts of copyright-violating services to prosper. We didn't think that Antigua would seriously go in this direction, but as a new NY Times article makes clear it's exactly what Antigua is now pushing for
. Of course, the real hope is that in doing so, the Big Copyright players will force the US government to back down on the gambling issue. However, it might be a lot more interesting to see what would happen if Antigua really did become the protected legal home of more modern versions of (the old) Napster, my.mp3.com, the Pirate Bay, Allofmp3.com and others. Of course, as reader OKVol
points out to us, the real irony here is that in potentially ignoring copyright monopolies, Antigua may be getting closer to real free trade
than in living up to the terms of the free trade agreement between the two countries.