The Antiguan government is planning to open an online pirate marketplace, selling American media without reimbursing the copyright holders. The island nation is taking the controversial step in response to a decade of US-enacted legislation against online gambling, which is preventing legal access to the Antiguan sites. The US laws are in contravention of World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings which has allowed the island nation to operate the sites, and market them internationally, including to US markets. The WTO has ruled against the US twice regarding online gambling in Antigua over the past 10 years.
In 2005, the WTO ruled against the US, saying that the government's refusal to allow Antigua to access US Internet users access to its gambling sites violated international free-trade arrangements. In 2007, the WTO allowed Antigua the right to suspend up to $21 million in US copyright royalties annually following the country's claim of $3.4 billion in trade sanctions against the US.
According to a report by TorrentFreak
, Antigua's government wants to launch a subscription-based service selling US media to customers worldwide. The plan has allegedly been underway for several months, and will launch when the nation's government has informed the WTO about the plan. The topic was on the WTO agenda in December, but the US prevented the discussion, claiming the request was "untimely."
"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," Antigua government attorney Mark Mendel told TorrentFreak.
"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," a letter from the US government to the WTO claimed.
The cybergambling industry was once an underpinning to Antigua's economy. "What was once a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, employing almost five percent of our population has now shrunk to virtually nothing," Antigua's High Commissioner to London, Carl Roberts, once said in regards to the traffic embargo.
Internet gambling began in 1994 in Antigua. Google and Yahoo removed online gambling advertising after an interpretation of the Federal Wire Act of 2002 said that advertising such gambling may be deemed as aiding and abetting the activity, which violates several US laws.