The Caribbean island is taking the unprecedented step because the United States refuses to lift a trade “blockade” preventing the island from offering Internet gambling services, despite several WTO decisions in Antigua’s favor. The country now hopes to recoup some of the lost income through a WTO approved “warez” site.
Antigua and Barbuda is a small country in the Caribbean that for years had a flourishing gambling industry.
A few years ago 5% of all Antiguans worked at gambling related companies. However, when the U.S. prevented the island from accessing their market the industry collapsed.
“What was once a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, employing almost 5% of our population has now shrunk to virtually nothing,” Antigua’s High Commissioner to London, Carl Roberts, said previously.
Hoping to rebuild the gambling business Antigua filed a dispute at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which they won.
In 2005 the WTO ruled that the US refusal to let Antiguan gambling companies access their market violated free-trade, as domestic companies were allowed to operate freely. In 2007 the WTO went a step further and granted Antigua the right to suspend U.S. copyrights up to $21 million annually.
TorrentFreak is informed by a source close to Antigua’s Government that the country now plans to capitalize on this option. The authorities want to launch a website selling U.S. media to customers worldwide, without compensating the makers.
The plan has been in the works for several months already and Antigua is ready to proceed once they have informed the WTO about their plan. Initially the island put the topic on the WTO meeting last month, but the U.S. blocked it from being discussed by arguing that the request was “untimely.”
This month Antigua will try again, and if they succeed their media hub is expected to launch soon after.
Antigua’s attorney Mark Mendel told TorrentFreak that he can’t reveal any details on the plans. However, he emphasized that the term “piracy” doesn’t apply here as the WTO has granted Antigua the right to suspend U.S. copyrights.
“There is no body in the world that can stop us from doing this, as we already have approval from the international governing body WTO,” Mendel told us.
TorrentFreak is in the process of obtaining details of the content to be offered and the prices to be charged. One option would be to ask users for $5 a month in return for unlimited access to U.S. media.
As predicted, the suggestion to suspend U.S. copyrights is already meeting resistance from United States authorities.
“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,” the U.S warned in a letter to the WTO last month.
According to the letter Antigua will ruin their chances of getting a settlement should they approve a site that sels U.S. copyrighted goods without compensating the makers.
“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,” the U.S. added.
Antigua doesn’t appear to be impressed much by these threats and is continuing with its plan.
If the Antiguan media portal indeed launches, it will make headlines all across the world, which may result in the site becoming one of the larger authorized suppliers of U.S. media on the Internet.