Last week the World Trade organization made a ruling requiring the United States government to pay $500,000 in damages to the Antiguan government for disruptions in commerce as well as allowing Antigua to suspend its WTO obligations to the US in respect of copyrights. This is due to the fact that the WTO panel agreed with Antigua that it had no way of effectively sanctioning the collection of damages created by the US’ illegal legislation that banned all forms of gambling within the United States except for horse and dog racing.
Music2.0, an online website dedicated to digital music, posted an article detailing the various impacts that this newest WTO resolution would have on the US music industry among other industries.Antigua now has the right to “disregard its WTO obligations to the US in respect of copyrights, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property including industrial designs, patents, protection of undisclosed information up to the value of $21 million.”
Such a ruling has the potential to drastically affect industries like music and film. Fighting against pirating of copyrighted intellectual property has become one of the modern globalized world’s biggest challenges and this ruling only makes the battle tougher. According to this most recent WTO ruling, Antigua can legally pirate $21 million worth of intellectual property in light of unfair US trade policies.
Sanctioning Antigua’s pirating of intellectual property is a drastic step in what has become a dramatic situation. The United States has a history of trying to do as it pleases when it comes to international trade, criticizing one country’s trade practices and then committing the same crime that they condemned. International trade lawyer Lode Van Den Hende put it succinctly, ““The U.S. is not behaving as one would expect. One day they’re out there saying how scandalous it is that China doesn’t respect W.T.O. decisions, but then the next day there’s a dispute that doesn’t go their way and their attitude is: The decision is completely wrong, these judges don’t know what they’re doing, why should we comply?”
The small island of Antigua has been trying to wean itself off of an almost total dependence on their tourist sector. Online gambling seemed like the way to go until US lawmakers passed the 2006 legislation banning all foreign gambling groups from the US. The roughly $15 billion industry made half of its business with US clients. The legislation banning these companies from the US has been detrimental to several smaller economies that have been affected and have been left with no choice but to fight back.
According to Antigua’s lawyer Mark Mendel, “Antigua cannot be vilified by the United States government as criminals as they will not actually be breaking copyright and piracy laws.Antigua was not aiming for this judgment, rather, they simply would like for the US to follow the rules of the WTO by allowing Antiguan gaming operators to offer horse race betting to Americans, just as American gaming operators are currently allowed to do. Until they do meet the legalities of the WTO rulings it will be legal to sell copyrighted materials.”
The battle over the status of online gambling in the United States has just begun. Hopefully with countries like Antigua and Barbados standing up to the US over what they believe are grave indiscretions America will once again allow online gambling to anyone and everyone.