A long-simmering trade conflict between the United States and Antigua and Barbuda appears to be boiling over.
Antigua and Barbuda, which has a $1 billion economy, is planning on getting legal retribution from the United States’ $15 trillion economy over its refusal to let Americans gamble at online sites based in the Caribbean nation — perhaps by offering downloads of American intellectual property, like Hollywood films, network television shows or hit pop songs. On Monday, the World Trade Organization gave its go-ahead for Antigua and Barbuda’s tentative plan.
“The economy of Antigua and Barbuda has been devastated by the United States government’s long campaign to prevent American consumers from gambling,” Harold Lovell, Antigua’s finance minister, said in a statement. “These aggressive efforts to shut down the remote gaming industry in Antigua have resulted in the loss of thousands of good-paying jobs and seizure by the Americans of billions of dollars belonging to gaming operators and their customers.”
The conflict’s roots are a decade old. The World Trade Organization said that the United States had violated its trade agreements by preventing Americans from betting at sites based in Antigua and Barbuda. Because Washington is unwilling to make the betting legal, the countries have been locked in a dispute over what constitutes fair trade practices and fair compensation.
The online gambling industry was at one point the second-largest employer in the Caribbean country, its government has said, and economists estimated its worth at $3.4 billion. Gambling employment has dropped to fewer than 500 people from more than 4,000 as a result of the United States’ trade policy, it said.
On Monday, a dispute settlement body in Geneva gave Antigua and Barbuda the nod to, in essence, violate American intellectual property rights to make up its losses, calculated at $21 million a year.
It remains murky just how the Antigua and Barbuda government might go about it. But trade watchers suggested it might set up a site where viewers could pay a pittance to watch a film or television show with an American copyright. The United States might not be able to shut the site down under international law.
BTW, it was the US that insisted on having cross-retaliation, where misbehavior in one industry could result in penalties at another industry.
In a best case scenario, I hope that this doesn’t get resolved, and the “content owners” (actually the holders of exclusive licenses) find their stuff on the internet for next to nothing.
Hollywood and Silicon Valley will doubtless freak out, but if this continues down this path, and Antigua does distribute IP protected content, the US is forbidden from retaliating, so we see what happens if a bit of IP sanity breaks out.
My guess is that it won’t be the apocalypse that the MPAA and the RIAA predicts, and maybe they will be viewed like the proverbial “Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
My previous posts about this are here, and it appears to me that this is moving very slowly, my earliest post is from 2007(!), and the complaint, and the remedy, remain the same as my original post, but we now finally have a ruling.